Addressing mental health in the workplace

Minority man at work looking depressed while sitting at his desk on a laptop. Minority man at work looking depressed while sitting at his desk on a laptop. Minority man at work looking depressed while sitting at his desk on a laptop. Minority man at work looking depressed while sitting at his desk on a laptop.

Key takeaways

These four strategies can help employers address mental health in the workplace.

Workplaces are making progress when it comes to supporting the mental health of their employees, but in many cases there’s room for improvement.

A study from the American Psychological Association shows that 55% of workers agree that their employer thinks their workplace environment is a lot mentally healthier than it actually is, and 43% report worrying that if they told their employer about a mental health condition, it would have a negative impact on them in the workplace.

Negative mental health outcomes can be even greater among minority employees. For example, Black/African Americans are 1.16 times more likely to screen positive for depression than white people. However, only 25% of Black/African Americans seek mental health treatment when needed, compared to 40% of white people.

Asian Americans are 60% less likely to receive mental health treatment than whites, and just over 36% of Latino adults who have mental illness receive services.

And LGBTQ+ people are more than twice as likely than heterosexual people to experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. They are also less likely to receive effective, compassionate care that addresses the unique experiences, discrimination and stigma they face.

Depression, anxiety and stress don’t just impact the mental and physical wellbeing of employees. These mental health issues can also lead to an increase in sick days and loss of productivity at workplaces. In fact, mental health challenges result in more than $200 billion annually in health care utilization and lost work productivity.

Are you looking for ways to address mental health in your workplace? In honor of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s explore four strategies that can help.

1. Offer good mental wellness benefits

Many health plans today have coverage for therapy and other mental health services, but not all plans are created equal. Here are some factors to consider when comparing plans:

  • Covered services: Select a plan that provides a wide variety of inpatient and outpatient mental health services to help your employees receive the most comprehensive coverage.
  • Network size: Ensure your employees have a large selection of mental health professionals and facilities to choose from, and ensure health plans have a good mix of professionals who are culturally competent
  • Telehealth: Help your employees receive mental health treatment anywhere with virtual visits and telehealth. Research shows that Black/African American patients are 20% more likely to use telehealth services than white patients.
  • No referrals: Look for plans that don’t require referrals from primary care physicians. This will help employees get mental health help more quickly and with less obstacles.
  • Free resources: Some providers offer employees free resources, such as access to mental health care apps that provide video-based therapy, text-based coaching and helpful content.

2. Educate employees on mental wellness benefits

Even if you offer the best mental health benefits on the market, your employees won’t utilize them if they don’t know what they have and understand how they work.

Optavise research shows that it’s much more helpful for employees to learn about benefits through in-person conversations than digitally. Employees say learning from a 1:1 conversation with a benefits educator is 22% more helpful than learning from an online resource and 70% more helpful than learning from an email.

When employees are well-educated on their mental health benefits, they will be aware of all the resources available to them and be more likely to utilize them.

3. Train managers on mental health topics

Managers are the gatekeepers of employee well-being, but only 12% of U.S. workers say their employer has people on-site who have received mental health training. 

Ensure your managers are equipped with knowledge that builds trust with workers, creates a safe work climate, and addresses the unique needs of minority workers. In addition, managers should be coached on company mental health programs and empower employees to access those resources.

4. Foster a culture of positive work-life balance

Fifty-seven percent of U.S. workers say they experience symptoms of burnout, and only 40% say their employer offers a culture where time off is respected. Burnout is work-related stress that can lead to depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other physical and mental ailments.

Take a hard look at your company culture and consider if it supports an employee’s right to positive work-life balance. Check out this article for four strategies to help alleviate employee burnout at your organization.

Want more? Check out our blog, 5 wellness program initiatives to consider in 2024.

Optavise is your benefits partner

Optavise is a trusted partner, guiding employers and their employees through healthcare choices including voluntary benefits, benefits administration, and year-round advocacy services that reduce costs and increase benefits engagement.