Study: Progress still slow on employee access to mental health

Dive Brief:

  • Mental health is increasingly a topic of workplace conversation in recent years, and more employees are comfortable talking about their mental health challenges, according to a new Lyra Health survey, but many are still not getting help treating conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, chronic depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
  • Survey data published Tuesday by the mental health benefits vendor showed that 86% faced at least one mental health challenge in 2022, but only one-third said they received support from a therapist, a psychologist or self-care resources. That included 40% of those with severe or chronic depression and 28% of those with conditions such as ADHD, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • All of the 2,501 employee respondents were eligible for health benefits and 29% had access to mental healthcare benefits outside of their medical plan, but this access has been hindered by a shortage of practitioners as well as long wait times for care. Lyra Health also said it found a “disconnect” between managers and benefits leaders regarding access to dedicated resources for managers on mental health.

Dive Insight:

In 2023, U.S. employers have largely described mental health and emotional well-being as priorities for their benefits programs. In fact, mental health investment is one of a few reasons why industry analysts who previously spoke to HR expect benefits to be one of the few areas that may not see cost cuts during an economic downturn.

As Lyra Health’s survey shows, however, there may be several obstacles to effective treatment of mental health issues in an employee population. For example, a stigma around the topic persists despite increased societal recognition; 70% of workers in a 2022 Unum survey said employers could do more to address mental health stigma year-round.

Other reports find that access to mental healthcare is not as widespread as some firms claim, with a 2022 The Harris Poll survey showing that only 23% of workers said their employers offered no-cost on-site or remote mental health resources.

Last year saw companies including PwC expand the number of free annual mental health professional visits. Additionally, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a 5-point strategy for workplace mental health that included addressing topics such as psychological safety, rest time and diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

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