Improving Access to Behavioral Health Services in the Workplace

DMEC Staff@Work

Improving Access to Behavioral Health Services in the Workplace

By Rhonda Stribling, RN

Clinical Director Workforce Absence
Sedgwick

Behavioral health conditions are on the rise in the United States and can have a significant impact on overall workplace productivity. These conditions are a leading cause of disability for employers, and early intervention is necessary to manage absences.

In the past, employers shied away from bringing attention to behavioral health conditions because it appeared too personal or invasive. In reality, a mental health event can be a very confusing and frightening time for employees. For some, their condition and symptoms are new; for others, they have been suffering in silence for months or years. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are among the most burdensome health concerns. If employers don’t take the appropriate steps to provide support, employees could be facing longer and more frequent absences because the struggle is real and must be addressed.

It’s no secret that the workplace can be stressful. Everyday tasks and demands can exacerbate an underlying behavioral health condition. It is crucial for employers to establish a work environment that is free from mental health stigma and fosters open and safe conversations around these issues. They should also provide programs that benefit and support employees during this time of need. Only then can employees feel they can trust, understand, and access such support services and ultimately restore a sense of normalcy in their lives, including returning to work.

The Size of the Problem

While many employers strive to position mental health and well-being as a priority in the workplace, they face numerous obstacles. Behavioral health problems in the workplace are not a simple area to address or a niche issue affecting only a few. One in five adults have a diagnosable mental health condition per year; despite the prevalence of the issue, fewer than half of these people receive care.1

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