As employees return to the workplace and the nation begins to recover from COVID-19, businesses should make mental wellness a key part of their benefit offerings, experts say.
All of the changes and complications surrounding the pandemic have brought on additional stressors that affect not only your physical health and well-being (as well as everyone around you), but your mental state as well.
The statistics are staggering. One in five U.S. adults live with a form of mental illness. Anxiety disorders are the most common, currently affecting 25% of all teens, and can lead to more serious mental health conditions such as depression and even suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults, second only to childhood cancer.
“Mental health and wellbeing should be a focus area—a goal—for all employers, especially as we come out of the pandemic and re-define the future for our companies, our employees and their families,” said Todd McLean, president of BOK Financial Insurance (BOKFI).
To mark Mental Health Awareness Month, BOKFI recently highlighted mental wellness as part of its employee benefits offering for companies.
“These startling statistics should be a wake-up call on just how important opening a dialogue can be, and that we all need to work together to bring resources to light for those who need them,” said Katie Patterson, employee benefits operations manager with BOKFI.
Focus on employees with teens
Mental wellness can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, but staying informed and aware of this growing national (and global) issue is a step in the right direction, Patterson said. “Understanding the issues and employing the resources available to us all will make an impact.”
Some of those tools focus on parents in the workforce who have teens that struggle with mental health challenges as well as the young adult population.
According to Stress in America™ 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis, a study released in October, Gen Z adults (ages 18-23) were the most likely generation to say that their mental health has worsened during the pandemic. Nearly half of this age group said they were “facing unprecedented uncertainty, experiencing elevated stress and already reporting symptoms of depression.”
“The potential long-term consequences of the persistent stress and trauma created by the pandemic are particularly serious for our country’s youngest individuals, known as Generation Z,” according to the report. “We need to act right now to help those who need it, and to prevent a much more serious and widespread mental health crisis.”
In a recent video from BOKFI, Patterson spoke with Sarah Bontrager, a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist, about issues affecting the mental health of teenagers and young adults.
Bontrager’s experience and discussion points are important and poignant. “Having a team of people around your child to help is one of the best things that we can do,” she said. “How do we take action as a community around these adults and teenagers? I think we have to seek resources to arm ourselves.”
“It is important to realize that purely listening and learning are helpful,” Patterson added. “Simply being mindful may help teens cope with and reduce stress.”
Look at your benefit package
BOK Financial Insurance has outlined three helpful resources that are likely already available in your company’s health benefits package.
- Medical Plan Coverage - Many medical plans include a myriad of mental health services ranging from therapy or counseling appointments (group and individual) and visits with a psychiatrist or other doctor to coverage for mental health prescriptions and lab tests ordered by your doctor.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) - An EAP can provide confidential assessments, referrals and follow-up services to employees and family members alike. EAP professionals may also provide training or consultation to managers and supervisors on concerns within their team. Most counseling and/or training sessions are available through virtual meetings.
- Telehealth - Licensed therapists, psychologists and counselors are available virtually where patients can access care in the comfort of their own home. Mental health services range from ongoing visits with a mental healthcare specialist to expert medical opinions for complex cases. Many telehealth providers even offer access to care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for a zero to minimal copay.
“Starting—that remarkable first step to learning more—is key to improving mental health,” McLean said. “Begin by seeking resources, and then set that first appointment to visit with a therapist and/or speak to someone knowledgeable.”