Maximizing mental health resources in your employee benefits plan

Creating a comprehensive and supportive mental health strategy within employee benefits plans is a commitment to the well-being of your workforce. Here’s a deeper look into why and how employers can maximize mental health resources in their employee benefits plans:

Understanding the Need for Mental Health Support

The first step is to recognize the prevalence of mental health issues in the workplace. Statistics Canada reports that 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health problem or illness in any given year. Mental health issues contribute to about 30% of disability claims in Canada, costing the economy over $50 billion annually. (Source: Mental Health Commission of Canada) For employers, this translates to a direct impact on productivity, engagement, and overall employee satisfaction.

Specifically, innovative companies are raising the bar. For example, Starbucks Canada offers up to $5,000 per year for mental health therapy, eclipsing the traditional cap of $500 for paramedical services. This may signify a growing trend where employers are not just meeting but exceeding expectations; making the dollar thresholds much higher for mental health support.

Assessing your Current Plan

Evaluate your existing benefits to identify gaps in mental health support. Does your plan cover therapy sessions? What about digital mental health tools or apps that support mindfulness and stress management? Consider conducting an anonymous survey to gather feedback on what employees may need or want.

Expanding Coverage Options

Look into expanding coverage for psychological services, which can include one-on-one therapy, group counseling, or family therapy. Ensure that your plan offers a variety of options to cater to different preferences and needs.

  • Leverage Technology
    Leveraging technology is a strategic move to dismantle barriers to mental health care. Virtual therapy sessions not only increase accessibility but also offer a lifeline for those who may find the prospect of travel overwhelming. This can be especially valuable when an individual is in crisis and unable to face the additional stress of commuting to an in-person therapy appointment.
  • Incorporate Pre-Recorded CBT Sessions
    Adding pre-recorded Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions to your plan can significantly extend the reach of your benefits budget. These sessions provide on-demand support, allowing individuals to access help precisely when they need it, ensuring that assistance is not bound by time or place. 
  • Incorporate Preventative Care for Cost Efficiency
    Proactive coverage for therapy sessions is a strategic preventative measure. When comparing the relatively manageable cost of therapy to the substantial expenses associated with long-term disability cases, the benefits become clear. Investing in mental health care upfront can prevent more severe health issues down the line, which often lead to extended absences and high financial costs. Further, include preventative measures such as stress management workshops, mindfulness training, and resilience-building activities. These can empower employees to take proactive steps towards maintaining their mental well-being.

Promoting a Stigma-Free Workplace

It's important to cultivate a workplace culture where mental health is openly discussed and supported. This involves training for management and staff to recognize signs of mental distress and to communicate without judgment.

Continuously Reviewing and Adapting

As the understanding of mental health evolves, so should your benefits plan. Regularly review and adapt your offerings to ensure they meet the changing needs of your workforce.

Communication is Key

Finally, communication about these benefits should be clear, frequent, and accessible. Whether it's through email updates, intranet posts, or informational sessions, make sure every employee understands how to access and utilize the mental health resources available. (Read this article for 2 key ways to ensure your employees know what benefits they have access to.)

By investing in a robust mental health strategy, employers not only enhance the well-being of their employees but also contribute to a more dynamic, engaged, and productive workforce. A comprehensive approach to mental health care in benefits plans reflects a company’s dedication to its most valuable asset - its people.

If you’re looking for support in creating your strategy, please get in touch with our team to get a conversation started.