New messages from Aflac | View Notifications opens a dialog Close X dismisses the notification alert
Contact Aflac

Increased mental health services can help clients, employees and their community

Not so long ago, the general business culture was “work is work and home is home,” and employees kept their personal issues to themselves.

In recent years, though, the business world has begun to evolve beyond that view. Leaders have learned that providing mental health support isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s better for business.

Today’s employers have access to new tools to improve the mental health of their employees. Of employers surveyed in the 2020-2021 Aflac WorkForces Report, 31% said they offered virtual mental health coaching, 29% offer group counseling and 19% provide on-site mental health care.1 In the wake of Covid-19 and the increased attention paid to mental wellness, these numbers are poised to grow.

Even before the pandemic, one in five adults in the U.S. had a mental health condition, and nearly 8% of the population had a substance use disorder.2 Many months of fear, grief and isolation have only exacerbated these problems; as the American Psychological Association put it: “We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.”3

Your clients can play an important role in supporting people’s mental wellness during this time – and beyond. Doing so doesn’t just help their workforce; it helps the business, too.

The business case for mental health support

In June 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 40% of people in the United States were experiencing a mental or behavioral health condition, including anxiety, depression and substance use. More than 10% of those surveyed by the CDC said they had seriously considered suicide in the preceding 30 days.4

Employers noticed. Nearly 90% of about 1,000 employers who responded to a McKinsey & Company survey reported that the pandemic was affecting the behavioral health or productivity of their employees.5

A proactive approach to providing mental health services saves companies money in the long run by increasing productivity, reducing turnover and preventing chronic stress from leading to costly diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

It’s also a must-have for recruitment; increasingly, people are expecting better mental health coverage and more support from their employers. This is especially true of younger employees, including those in the millennial generation and Gen Z, who tend to be more open about their mental health challenges.

Employers level up their mental health services

As with other types of employee benefits, the trend in mental health services is toward more choices and personalization Back in 2019, 66% of employers planned to emphasize mental and behavioral health in the coming years, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey of 610 employers who collectively employ more than 11 million people.6 No one could have foreseen how necessary that shift would soon become.

Here’s some of what the leading employers are offering:

  • Telehealth for mental health: Many people who had never taken advantage of telemedicine before did so in 2020 to see their primary care doctors, specialists and mental health professionals, too. Telehealth improves access for mental health services because people don’t have to choose a therapist in their immediate area, and it can be less intimidating for first-timers.
  • More generous EAPs: Employee assistance programs give employees access to a set number of free appointments with a mental health professional. EAPs are widespread; according to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 90% of its members say their organizations offer them.7 But now, businesses are making an effort to expand their EAPs to include more appointments (10 instead of three, for example) and more types of help, such as financial counseling and services for dependents.
  • Digital mental health solutions: Employers can purchase a digital mental health platform that employees access on their phones or computers. Employees can text with a coach, complete exercises to strengthen coping skills or meet via video with a licensed mental health professional. Some employers provide free subscriptions to apps that help with sleep, relaxation or meditation.
  • On-site therapy: Large companies sometimes find it cost-effective to offer medical care, including mental health services, on premises. It’s also more convenient for employees and eliminates travel time to appointments.
  • Increased awareness and training: Employers are making a more pronounced effort to communicate to their employees that mental health is a priority. This can include holding workshops on topics such as resilience or training managers to spot signs of emotional distress.

The mental health crisis is complex and not easily solved. Brokers can help clients support their employees in a holistic way and have a powerful impact on their businesses and the broader community.