Mental Health: Moving Beyond Awareness

One in five – that is the number of Americans adults who experience a mental health issue. In fact, according to a report in Health Affairs, treating mental health conditions cost more than any other medical condition nationally in 2013, at a staggering $201 billion.

Fortunately, employers are becoming aware of this urgent problem. A recent Willis Towers Watson survey of U.S. employers found that nearly nine in 10 employers believe mental/behavioral health will be a priority over the next three years.

As May’s Mental Health Month concludes, we should all recognize that awareness is not enough. Employers can take action to go beyond raising awareness, to provide the tools and resources needed to help stem the widespread impact of mental health conditions on both their employees and their business. To dive further into just what employers can do, we reached out to Ali Cherry, Head of Marketing at Lantern, a leading mental health solution and Castlight platform partner.


How can mental health conditions manifest in the workplace? And, what are their impacts? 

Procrastination and avoidance. Feeling more distracted or irritable than usual. Persistent exhaustion.

These are just some of the ways mental health issues can manifest themselves. Often times, people who find themselves withdrawing from activities or having trouble focusing believe that they’re “just stressed,” as they don’t identify with “mental health” or think their situation is an issue.

The lack of awareness about what constitutes a mental health issue, the stigmatized language surrounding it, and the lack of affordable and quality care options, mean that 66 percent of those with a mental health condition never seek or find care. The effects are wide reaching: from absenteeism and lost productivity in the workplace to increased chronic condition suffering, health utilization, and health claims.


“Though one in five Americans experiences mental health issues, 66% never seek or find the care they need.”


What solutions are available to help address the negative impact of the mental health conditions?

As mental health becomes the new obesity – increasingly pervasive and connected to chronic health conditions – there are more and more innovative digital health options available for doctors to recommend and employers to make available that address barriers to seeking and finding care. Mobile programs allow for an affordable, accessible, engaging and private form of mental health care that can reach anyone who has a smart phone.

Mobile programs also have an opportunity to transcend the stigmatized labels and meet people where they are. At Lantern, we can help individuals find more effective ways to handle the pressures at work, or learn skills to better manage feelings of overwhelm or worry. Individuals can seek help without having to accept a diagnosis.


What is Lantern’s approach to mental health conditions?

At Lantern, we focus on reaching people where they are with practical tools that fit into their life. By offering a program with a variety of interactive, research-backed techniques – from mindfulness to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – individuals practice and find what works for them. Supported by a personal coach who can help troubleshoot and offer feedback, people are encouraged to apply the techniques to their situation – whether it’s procrastination or relationship conflict or difficulty sleeping – so that they acquire the skills and integrate new, more helpful behaviors in a sustainable way.

There is no one size fits all approach to mental health care. Some individuals will prefer a face-to-face relationship, while others may benefit from medication. Offering a behavioral support tool as an additional option can ensure that we help more individuals get the care in the way that suits them. Digital mental health can also measure outcomes, which allows individuals to hone in on effective techniques for them and reinforce skill building beyond the care.


“Offering a behavioral support tool as an additional option can ensure that we can help more individuals get the care in the way that suits them.”


What opportunities do employers have to help reduce the strain of mental health conditions on their employee population?

Employers have a unique opportunity to reach people where they are, literally. Individuals spend about half of their waking hours in the workplace, where mental health issues can show up in a variety of ways. While food and fitness get increasing attention in holistic health benefit portfolios, mental health care programs enable individuals to target a root cause of disability claims and retention issues.

Through Castlight’s platform, employers can offer their employees and families Lantern’s programs to help the 66 percent of individuals who struggle in silence, seek and find the mental health care they need. Consider going beyond awareness this Mental Health Awareness Month and providing a solution to your employees in need.

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