This article was last updated on April 21, 2023.
Navigating everyday life continues to shine a brighter light on the connection between mental and physical health. Key insights from a 2021 behavioral health study conducted by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield reaffirmed that access to behavioral health care when and where it is needed is an issue, particularly in the more rural areas of the Midwest. The study also found that employers are looking for solutions to address increasing trends in behavioral health-related claims.
Are behavioral health and mental health the same?
The terms are often used interchangeably, but behavioral health is considered a subset of mental health.
How does mental health affect the workplace?
Employees living with a mental health challenge may have mood swings, present an inability to perform simple or daily tasks, have little or no energy, or may begin pulling away from people or activities they previously enjoyed. In Wellmark's survey, productivity and morale issues were cited as the most common occurrences, as well as employee burnout, presenteeism and even a surge in divorce rates.
Wellmark's behavioral health survey takeaways
Benefit consultants and employers were invited to participate in a 30-minute interview to discuss the current landscape of behavioral health in the workplace. Here's what we learned:
Wellmark's survey findings.
- Don't assume your employees are OK. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during late June 2020, 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse.
- Communicate, educate and raise awareness. Providing communications and increasing awareness is mentioned most often as a way carriers and administrators can help manage mental health claims.
- Promote the efficiency of telehealth. Despite connectivity and access issues acting as barriers for some, many employers believe telehealth will be a viable option for mental health well into the future.
- Have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? Use it! EAPs can become a default solution for addressing employees' challenges, especially when employers either don't have, or aren't sure they have, a mental health option.
How you can support your employees
- It may be time to take a look at your health plan to see how telehealth visits are covered by your health plan. Doctor On Demand® is Wellmark’s preferred virtual visit solution and offers a diverse choice of providers External Link.
Share virtual visits from Doctor On Demand with your employees
The Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield Marketing Toolkit offers a variety of materials about Doctor On Demand and virtual visits. Simply type "Doctor On Demand" into the search bar and choose from flyers, emails and posters that you can download and share with your employees to educate them on how virtual visits can support their mental health.
- Opening up about mental health in the workplace can be uncomfortable, as mental health has often been viewed as a personal issue rather than a medical condition. Ensure the language you use External Link supports a more positive perception of mental illness. For example, instead of saying someone is mentally ill, say they are experiencing a mental health problem or challenge.
- Make it known that your organization values mental health and is a safe space for communicating about it.
- Iowa employers can register as a Make It OK workplace External Link through the Healthiest State Initiative website. Becoming a registered Make It OK workplace demonstrates that your organization values reducing stigma for all Iowans, plus you can receive tools, ideas and strategies to use in your workplace.
- South Dakota employers can pledge to be a StigmaFree company External Link through the National Alliance on Mental Illness website. The initiative helps companies promote mental health awareness in the workplace and to encourage acceptance and understanding.
- Don't underestimate the stigma of discussing mental health. If you are stretched for time or resources, consider bringing in professionals. Also, consider offering mental health days to help employees recover from stress, work-related burnout or chronic anxiety and depression.
Get help ending mental health stigmas in your workplace
Wellmark is committed to creating an environment in your workplace that promotes healthy behaviors. Through our employer consulting and well-being services, we look beyond your employees' claims and provide a variety of evidence-based programs that address the six elements of well-being: social, emotional, physical, community, financial and career.
Our services can provide you with tools and resources to help you create a desired workplace culture that:
- Aligns health and well-being to your organization's overall mission and vision.
- Expands on the definition of traditional physical wellness to include the six elements of well-being.
- Emphasized engagement over participation.
Promote mental well-being at work
Never before has it been this important to keep employees’ mental well-being top-of-mind. Start by prioritizing resiliency as an essential part of your team’s overall health with meQuilibrium External Link (meQ)— new well-being training tool from Wellmark. meQ can help you build employee resilience for increased productivity and lower turnover rates.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org Send Email to learn more about meQ, schedule a demo of the tools and hear more about the science behind a resilient workforce.
About the study
Benefit consultants and employers were invited to participate in a 30-minute interview to discuss the current landscape of behavioral health in the workplace. A total of 26 phone interviews were conducted during the second quarter of 2021 by The Dieringer Research Group External Link, an independent, third-party research firm, on behalf of Wellmark. The proprietary research highlighted COVID-19’s impact on behavioral health and how specific tools like telehealth can be used to meet the growing needs among members now and post-pandemic.