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May is Mental Health Month - Do Employers have a Role?

While May has been recognized as National Mental Health Month for more than 50 years, currently the spotlight on mental health has never been brighter.

Over the course of the last 14 months, the effects of our personal and professional lives melding together has become clear – loneliness, stress, burn out, anxiety and exhaustion are all emotions we may feel any given day or week. More than ever, employees are bringing their whole selves to work. Employers and insurance carriers alike recognize this and are providing services to help employees become happier, more productive members of the company and their community. While the focus is on the employee, it has also become clear how untreated mental health plays a large part in the exploding cost of an employers healthcare spend. 

Last summer, Milliman conducted a study to determine how individuals with behavioral health conditions contribute to healthcare spend. The study population consisted of 21 million insured livesThe findings were astounding: 

  • The most expensive 10% of individuals (2.1 million) accounted for 70% of the total health care costs.   
  • Of these 2.1 million individuals, the average healthcare spend was $41,631 which was 21 times higher than the remaining 90% of the population.    
  • Within these 2.1 million high-cost claimants, 57%, had ailments associated with behavioral health which accounted for 44% of the annual total healthcare costs of the full study population.   

Even with these dramatic numbers, the connection between mental and physical wellbeing is not being made and individuals are not seeking the necessary care for their mental health. This is evident because 50% of individuals in this subgroup had less than $95 per year spending for behavioral health treatment (i.e., inpatient and outpatient hospital coded as behavioral treatment). As Henry Harbin, MD, stated, This is a tragedy…we know this population accounts for more than half of the total healthcare spending. Tremendous savings and improved outcomes are achievable if these individuals who deserve care are identified early and provided with prompt evidence – based behavioral health treatment. 

The initial goal for many employers going into Mental Health month is to break the stigma of mental health conditions. The next step is understanding that early recognition of these conditions has a direct impact on the individuals’ and the employers bottom line making it wise to focus on mental health not only in May, but throughout the year.  

How can you start the conversation with employees? What resources are available? How can you support managers so that they can support their employees? What does a workplace culture that supports mental wellbeing look like? Whether you are starting from the beginning, or revamping your existing program, you need to know your starting place and have a benchmark.  

  • Determine how your organizational health is promoting the health & wellbeing of your employees.  
  • Assess your population’s health risk and cost drivers.  
  • Identify the needs and interest of your employees.  

If you need help crafting a strategy around mental and physical wellness, visit OneDigital Health & Wellbeing Solutions or reach out to your dedicated Consultant. OneDigital’s health and wellbeing experts can help optimize the employee experience and maximize workplace productivity through custom wellbeing solutions.   

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