It's no secret that there's been a great deal of stigma associated with mental health over the last few decades, with several studies backing it up. The individuals made to feel like pariahs have been more likely to experience housing and employment discrimination, among other issues, when compared with those who haven't been open about their mental health problems. 

In 1992, the Americans with Disabilities Act was introduced, protecting individuals with behavioral health issues from discrimination in state and local governments. While these protective laws are technically in place, toxic views about mental health are still far too prevalent, and many employers continue to struggle with the best ways to address employee behavioral health concerns and the lack of access and timely care.

Within the past year, around 6-7% of full-time U.S. workers acknowledge experiencing major depression, while one in five adults were reported to have been diagnosed or untreated for a behavioral health issue. 

Mental health disorders are among the most common issues affecting today's workforce, leading to low productivity, absenteeism and an increase in behavioral health care costs for employers. With the average American spending 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, it's imperative for companies to take responsibility in supporting employees facing behavioral health issues.

Recently many employers have begun tackling this crisis head-on, although most still have a long way to go in making this subject a priority. 

Employees are often afraid to discuss mental health with co-workers and bosses, as they believe this topic could result in lost jobs, damaged relationships and unfair judgment. The stigma that surrounds mental health is a major barrier to seeking treatment, which we've already identified as an issue for both employers and employees. However, when executives and HR leaders are accepting and open to discussion around mental health in the workplace, it reduces the negative association around behavioral health issues, and employees more often feel valued and cared for at their company. 

Fewer than one in three employees who struggle with mental illness get the help they need. However, when an employer can decrease the stigma around mental health in the workplace, employees are more likely to seek help and be aware of available resources, which has effectively reduced mental health symptoms and conditions for 75% of those affected. 

For First Choice Health EAP clients, we've partnered with BetterHelp to offer an innovative new telehealth technology that will greatly improve behavioral access and connect EAP members to the world's largest online behavioral health network. This platform increases our availability and makes connecting with a behavioral health professional as flexible and efficient as possible, without any additional cost. 

Behavioral health is a critical issue for today's workforce, but there's still progress to be made. Let's continue working toward improving the health and well-being of those we work with, so the future holds a brighter place for the acceptance of those struggling with behavioral health.

Posted In:  Behavioral Health EAP

About Heather Alder

Heather Alder is a past Director of First Choice Health Employee Assistance Program. With experience in healthcare technology with a focus on advancing integration of behavioral health and primary care, Heather understands what can happen to our physical health, our workplace performance, and our healthcare costs when we forget to take care of our mental health.