Mental Health in the Workplace, Your Organization: At the Front Lines of Change

The Parkland massacre has many of us asking the same question: What can we do to address mental illness? According to a recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 1 out of every 5 Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder at some point in their lifetime – yet only 43% seek professional counseling or treatment.

Employers, don’t stand idly by and let that statistic stand. You can inspire major change. To do so, take an honest look at two elements: your workplace culture and the utilization of your mental health benefits.

Do the values and beliefs of your organization exude positivity? Are employees using the resources available to them through the workplace? The answer to both of these questions needs to be yes.

Remove any negative stigma of mental health and treatment by reassuring employees that all health information given to providers is confidential and will not affect job status. Review the organization’s offering of mental health resources; make sure your workforce knows that they exist. These resources may be available through your health plan, an EAP and/or your community.

Not sure where to find this information? Most health plans offer coverage for behavioral health services, treatments and medications. Specifics will be liste
d on your Certificate of Coverage (COC). Take stock of what you do and do not offer. Make sure your employees know that help is available and easily accessed.

Investing in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is another option. Often, a simple a call with a counselor during a stressful time like the loss of a loved one or divorce can make a huge difference.

One employee who praises his company’s EAP called a few times to speak with a counselor about anxiety; his seemed to be worsening, and he was concerned. The counselor helped him discover the root problem and then referred him to an app attached to the EAP that offers breathing exercises. Now, when that employee feels a panic attack about to begin, he uses the app. He remarks that this simple change to his daily routine has changed his life.

Telemedicine (virtual visits) is another effective tool. Most insurance carriers have telemedicine services embedded in their plans, and some have even added behavioral health visits. The convenience and privacy of communicating with a mental health professional on a mobile device or tablet could lessen the stigma associated with seeking such help.

Not sure whether your plan offers this? Check with your broker or carrier to learn if behavioral health visits are available through a telemedicine product. You also have the option to buy telemedicine services through an outside vendor. With this choice, you can customize services and even reduce copays to make it more attractive for use.

Finally, don’t skimp on tried-and-true teambuilding activities. Add volunteer days to the organizational schedule. Field a company sports team or offer on-site group fitness classes. Make mentorship programs available. All these examples help in building a cohesive corporate culture. Such socialization is beneficial for employee well-being and the company as a whole.

For assistance finding mental health resources for your employees or to learn strategies for making your workplace the healthiest possible, contact me at

Find information on mental health benefits below:

  • US Department of Labor:
  • S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Mental Health Services/Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
  • The National Institute of Mental Health: