In recent years, employers have been ramping up their mental health support for employees. About 88% of employers have acted on mental health in the last year, according to a recent Willis Towers Watson report.
But other research shows that there’s still a disconnect between employers and employees when it comes to mental health: About 73% of benefits leaders believe their companies have increased mental health support, but only half of managers and supervisors agree, according to a recent survey from Lyra Health, a provider of workplace mental health benefits. About 40% of employees either don’t believe or are unsure if their company promotes a healthy workplace, the survey also found.
One employer that has bulked up its mental health support is Walmart. The company provides free virtual physician visits through its medical plan, including for psychiatry and psychology, said Adam Stavisky, senior vice president of U.S. benefits at the company. It also offers some free mental health visits for members regardless of if they’re on the company’s medical plan or not, and has helped managers identify workers who are in distress and point them to resources. But when it comes to if there’s a disconnect between employers and employees in mental health, Stavisky said the issue often lies in communication.
“One of the persistent struggles that all employers face is communication. … How can we get the information our [employees] need at the time they need it in a manner in which it will resonate best with them. That is a work in progress I think for all employers. … There is not full alignment between what employers generally offer and their employees’ understanding of those programs,” he said during an interview at the AHIP Medicare, Medicaid, Duals and Commercial Markets Forum last week.
Garrett Hohimer, vice president of policy and advocacy at Business Group on Healthadded that there’s no doubt that employees and families need more mental health support. That said, there’s a serious shortage of mental health providers in the U.S., and even fewer who accept insurance. This shortage could be a contributing factor to the disconnect between employers and their employees in mental health, he said.
“I don’t think that there’s much disagreement that we need more mental health support,” he stated. “A lot of that is then going to be reflected on who’s out there to provide that support and who can generate or adopt policies and mechanisms that encourage and improve the availability of that support from licensed professionals.”
During a panel at the conference, Stavisky said virtual health could be a way to “smooth out the pockets of availability” for mental health providers. But in order to improve access to mental health in the U.S., there needs to be more effort from a variety of stakeholders to address the workforce shortage, Hohimer said during the same session.
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