The Importance of Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace
Friday, November 16, 2018
Posted by: Gary Hotze
Joe Spallina, VP of Employee Benefits, Assurance
Sadly, not a day goes by where the importance of mental health and substance abuse does not rear its ugly head as I’m scrolling through the news. Another overdose. Another death by suicide.
Unfortunately, this is a real epidemic, not just among the rich and famous, but for ordinary people who are heading off to work every day.
If you’re a stats person, here are the current stats available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institute of Mental Health for 2016:
• 116 people died every day from an opioid-related drug overdose
• 2.1 million people had an opioid disorder
• 948,000 people used heroin, attributing to 15,469 deaths
• Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States
o It was the second leading cause of death among individuals ages 10-34
o The fourth leading cause of death among ages 35-64
In 2008, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was passed, stating that group health plans provide mental health and substance abuse benefits cannot impose less favorable benefit limitations as medical and surgical benefits. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) amended MHPAEA to also apply to individual health insurance plans. However, some plans have skirted this by excluding certain disorders in their entirety from their plans due to cost concerns.
The MHPAEA is an old law, so why am I highlighting it now?
The reasons for it are still very prevalent in the workforce. According to the CDC, depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost to employers of $17-$44 billion. As employers are focusing more on their physical wellness programs, their health plan offerings, and outside vendors, it’s important also to address potential substance abuse situations.
Employers can assist by making sure employees have access to mental and substance abuse services through their benefit plan, stressing the accessibility and confidentiality of the use of those benefits. They can promote greater awareness through employee assistance programs (EAPs) and provide information in break rooms about mental health and substance abuse.
It’s also important that supervisors and managers can recognize signs of depression or substance abuse, understand an employee’s rights, and know the appropriate next steps to take should they have an employee suffering from either.
Mental health and substance abuse issues are common (and rising) among all demographics, so it’s more important than ever for employers to stay educated and provide the necessary assistance options for their employees.