- Mental illness and substance abuse issues are at the highest level they've been in two years, according to 60% of U.S. employers in a new study released by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Nearly 40% of organizations said that their employees are very or extremely stressed, and 39% said stress levels are more elevated now than two years ago.
- The top five mental health or substance abuse conditions employers cover include depression, alcohol addiction, prescription drug addiction/substance abuse, anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder.
- Ninety-one percent of organizations cover outpatient in-person treatment for mental health, and 86% cover the same type of treatment for substance abuse. About the same amount of businesses, 88% and 86%, cover inpatient hospital or clinic treatment for mental health and substance abuse, respectively. Eighty-five percent cover prescription drug therapies for mental health conditions, while 74% cover that treatment for substance abuse.
As employers recognize the effects of substance abuse and mental illness on the workforce, the solutions they offer will fare better when they've been designed thoughtfully and presented thoroughly.
"Moving forward, organizations should be sensitive to potential barriers to offering mental health and substance abuse benefits. Many workers fear that admitting a problem may negatively impact their job security, and some have concerns about confidentiality. Certain workers may not even know they have a problem or aren't ready to address it," Julie Stich, associate vice president of content at the International Foundation, said in a statement. "It's important for employers to communicate the availability of benefits and other resources available to help."
Organizations can use studies like the foundation's to gauge how prepared they are to help workers overcome critical mental health problems and limit the costly effects on the workplace. Terri L. Rhodes, CEO of the Disability Management Employer Coalition, previously told HR Dive that employers should verify that their insurance carriers have established processes for monitoring opioid prescriptions, for example.
Rhodes also said that though employers can't help addicted workers from a medical standpoint, they can look for signs of chronic pain among their employees. Signs include stress, depression and anxiety as well as high pain ratings, drug dependency and disability ranking out of proportion as compared to physical findings. Employers can offer some help to workers dealing with those issues, whether they relate to an addiction or not.
Many employers have installed Employee Assistance Programs geared toward helping workers learn to cope with stress and other mental challenges. Others have event initiated wellness programs that encourage employees to get active, take control of their finances or even manage chronic back pain.