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Tele-mental health in the workplace is critical to employee morale and productivity. This is why

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How can leaders keep their organization or business running in these unprecedented times? By understanding and prioritizing mental wellbeing.

As the world swings endlessly between global health and economic crises, conditions for employers or employees have never been more challenging. In the context of record shortages of staff and resources, a commitment to sustainability challenges companies to implement innovations such as virtual mental health care in the workplace.

The State of Mental Health in the US

In 2020, as society struggled with the new normal, the country’s mental health was anything but ordinary.

During this period, the number of adults reporting anxiety or depressive symptoms is quadrupled. This was more than just a spike – the Mental Health Index (MHI) reported a 71% increase in the risk of depression in workers until 2021, and stress, anxiety and depression have only recently returned to pre-2020 levels.

Research has shown that long-term disasters put society at risk for increased stress, anger, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. This is partly due to financial insecurity, loss of trust in authorities and disruption of daily life.

Studies of past disasters have shown that an increase in mental health care may have helped prevent future mental health problems. However, less than half of people with a mental illness received inpatient mental health care or prescribed psychiatric medication in 2020. In addition, communities of color that typically have difficulty accessing mental health services were disproportionately affected, deepening pre-existing rifts of health inequality.

Related: 4 Ways To Help Employees With Their Mental Health And Emotional Needs As You Reopen Offices

Employers taking the lead

If there is a golden edge to the disruption and trauma experienced, it is the normalization of mental health and the recognition by employers of its importance.

Large companies recognize responsibility for their employees. Sports giants Nike, Bumble, Hootsuite and LinkedIn, for example, have given access to digital resources, virtual counseling services and even paid leave for mental health. Smaller companies are following suit. after 2020, 39% of companies expanded their mental health providers to meet the changing needs of their employees.

But why should the employer take the lead? The answer is twofold.

As the mental health of the population and the workforce declined, so did employment and productivity. According to the Peterson Institution for International Economics, productivity is falling at the fastest race ever. At the same time, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) shows that the number of people quit their job remain above pre-pandemic levels, with high turnover in lower wage sectors.

While the tax implications of poor mental health for employers and employees are well documented, there’s more to it than balance sheets and stock prices.

Employers are extending the benefits with tele-mental health because it’s the right thing to do. The long-standing false dichotomy between physical and mental health needs to be challenged, and employers can do this by offering integrated health care. As dr. Hilary Grant, medical director of Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, notes, “Mental health problems cause, perpetuate, maintain and exacerbate acute and chronic physical health problems.” Providing only physical cover is like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in the bottom and wondering why it never seems to fill up.

An ongoing need for mental health care

While one global challenge is over, others are just beginning. According to MHI statistics from February – May 2022, macroeconomic trends and the war in Ukraine have led to a 12% increase in stress levels, a 23% jump fear in general, and a 53% increase in the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers examining the impact of the global health crisis on society concluded that the frequency of mental health symptoms made access to mental health services, such as telecare, critical. While the challenges are different, the need remains the same.

Related: How to Protect Your Team’s Mental Health

Modern solutions for the modern age

As the global health crisis kept people at home, consumers demanded greater convenience in all sectors, including healthcare. As a result, healthcare organizations around the world were driven to treat people where they were and provide care outside the hospital.

Technology-driven remote solutions, such as telemedicine, have become part of the architecture of today’s healthcare. While the need to stay at home is over, virtual care remains relevant as consumers have embraced flexibility.

In addition to convenience, virtual solutions support equal access in isolated or marginalized communities, where stigma or a shortage of mental health professionals could otherwise be a barrier.

The fast-growing field of tele-mental health

In the growing telemedicine sector, mental health has led the way, good for 53% of all consultations in the US between 2005 and 2017. However, mental health in the US faces two major challenges; a lack of capacity and an uneven geographical distribution.

Using consumer-grade electronics, tele-mental health is a low-tech answer to both. Multiple studies have shown that clients and providers are satisfied with the transition to virtual consultation. Benefits include:

  • So that people can be seen in their home or at work rather than in an unfamiliar clinical setting.
  • Avoiding the inconveniences of scheduling.
  • Waiting.
  • Other personal stumbling blocks, such as arranging transportation or a babysitter.

Tele-mental health also has many benefits for businesses. Accessible support increases efficiency by reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, which are estimated to cost the US economy $150 billion per year. As a low-cost option, telemedicine helps employees avoid co-payments and deductibles, remove financial barriers to medical care, and result in a healthier workforce.

During these difficult times, many will experience varying levels of mental health and mental illness that affect how they think, feel and act and their interactions, problem solving and decision making. Whether employees have reported or been diagnosed with a mental illness, employers must provide access to mental health care for all employees and, in turn, their companies.

Related: Healthcare for the masses: Why telehealth is a game changer for the Middle East

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