Awareness is growing about the toll mental health takes on individuals and their families. However, what’s less widely known is that the annual productivity cost of untreated mental illness is nearly $100 billion, wrote Jack Craver for Benefits Pro. “As a result, employers understand the burden of untreated mental health problems in the workplace and are looking for ways to get employees cost-effective treatment,” he wrote.


Mental health is more disruptive than other health issues: it causes more missed workdays than arthritis, diabetes and heart disease, wrote Sean Fogarty for Employee Benefit Adviser. “Ninety-four percent of organizations say their workforces are stressed, and 67 percent believe that substance abuse challenges are greater now than five years ago,” Fogarty wrote, citing research from International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.


“When asked how prevalent specific conditions are in their workplaces, top concerns identified included depression (61 percent), anxiety disorders (49 percent) and alcohol addiction (40 percent).” Here are suggestions for helping clients encourage their employees to treat their mental health issues.


Share Resources

Help clients share information about mental health benefits. That could mean helping them understand and navigate what’s covered, as well as which professionals are in-network, wrote Michael O. Schroeder for U.S. News and World Report. “Enrolling in a plan that covers providers [and] medications … can make a substantial difference in what [employees] pay out of pocket,” he wrote. “For many, that can affect whether they’re able to afford needed mental health treatment.”


Publicizing Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) can also help. “EAPs reduce unscheduled employee absences,” Fogarty wrote. “The average time away from work that was caused by the employee’s mental or emotional health concern(s) decreased by 6.8 hours after using the EAP.” Mental health care professionals are a far better resource for an employee in crisis than an emergency room, wrote Anna Medaris Miller for U.S. News and World Report.


If mental health care seems out of reach, employees should try national helplines or use a resource like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment locator, which can help them find the closest service.


Take Advantage of Telemedicine

In general, access to medical care by phone or online is growing in popularity, and that’s especially true for mental health treatment. “MDLive, Teladoc and American Well are among the telehealth firms getting into the business of offering access to psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists via smartphone, tablet and computer,” wrote Bruce Jepson for Forbes.


What’s more, employers are starting to use telemedicine as a resource for employees’ mental health. “A small but growing number of employers are directing their employees to mobile apps aimed at managing depression, stress, anxiety and other common mental health issues,” Jack Craver wrote. A survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson reaffirmed this when they “found that roughly a third of employers anticipate doing so within the next few years.”