Why your employees aren’t getting the behavioral healthcare they need

Approximately one out of every four full-time employees in America suffer from a mental health condition like depression, addiction, or anxiety.  Not only does this have a huge impact on the lives of these individuals, their families, and their friends, it also costs their employers: U.S. companies are losing $100 billion annually in lost productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism.  And that’s not even factoring in the increased employer healthcare spend on co-morbid medical conditions (which is estimated to be around 400%), since 68% of adults with mental health disorders suffer from at least one other serious medical condition like heart disease or diabetes.

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Bottom line: Quality behavioral healthcare is one of your employees’ top needs. It’s a benefit that has a huge impact on employees’ personal and professional lives, and a critical component of ensuring that your workforce is healthy, happy, and well.  So why aren’t they getting the care they need?  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the impediments can be grouped into four main categories: awareness, mindset, cost, and access.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at each of these barriers and how you can help your employees overcome them, so fasten your seatbelt! Today we will discuss barrier #1 – awareness.

There is a lack of awareness. Let’s take a closer look:

Over 70% of those suffering from a behavioral health disorder go undiagnosed.  Many employees suffering from mental health conditions or severe stress aren’t even aware of their conditions.  And even more are unaware of the treatment options already available to them.  For example, an employee experiencing sleeplessness, weight loss or irritability may not know that these could be symptoms of an underlying condition like depression.  Or an employee that’s dealing with major stress may not realize that your company offers free behavioral health services that could help them identify effective coping mechanisms.  So how do you break through the noise barrier to help increase employee awareness on A) early indicators and symptoms of common behavioral health conditions and B) the treatment options available to them?

Technology can help in unexpected ways. Here’s how:

When dealing with the complicated and highly subjective world of behavioral healthcare, it’s often assumed that a human touch (i.e. a therapist in the flesh) is an obvious requirement.  However counterintuitive it may seem, in many instances computer-based treatments have been proven to be a highly effective option.  One high-profile example is the U.S. Department of Defense’s use of Ellie, a virtual therapist program, to diagnose PTSD in military veterans (the LA Times and NPR have some great coverage of Ellie and the rationale behind the program’s success).  In addition, many studies have found that computer-based videos or games can teach cognitive behavioral therapies (exercises that help people understand how their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors follow certain harmful patterns and how to challenge those patterns) just as effectively as a live person can.

So computer-based behavioral health treatments have been proven to be powerful diagnostic and therapeutic tools.  This still doesn’t answer the question of how to ensure that employees know these treatment options are available to them.  That’s where enterprise healthcare management solutions – and specific behavioral healthcare products like our own Castlight Elevate – come into play.  Castlight Elevate privately and securely identifies employees at risk for behavioral health conditions, delivers individualized recommendations for treatment resources, and surfaces the information needed to make educated treatment choices and commence care – all from a personalized platform.

If you want to learn more about how new technology solutions are helping companies increase employee awareness of behavioral healthcare and reduce costs for employers and employees, download our guide: Reinventing Employee Behavioral Health.

In our next post of this series, we will examine how barrier #2 – individual mindset – can keep employees from seeking the care they need, and how technology-driven solutions are helping to overcome this challenge too.