Number of the day: mental health help barriers

Many employees report that cost is the greatest barrier to mental health improvement. Here’s what that means to HR leaders.
By: | June 10, 2021

Despite increased awareness of mental health issues—especially over the last year—many Americans have been reluctant to access mental health support due to several barriers. A new report from LifeWorks, which surveyed 5,000 workers, finds that 53% of respondents do not feel the need for mental health support, 35% have taken steps to improve their mental health and 12% have not taken steps but would like to. Within the latter group, 28% report that cost of care is the greatest barrier to mental health improvement, followed by having no time to seek care (27%), no energy to seek care (21%) and uncertainty about the proper care for their needs (21%).

What it means for HR leaders

The report is the latest to find that employees are suffering with regard to their mental health. Scores of other research have pointed to soaring rates of anxiety, stress, depression and burnout—much of it a direct result of COVID-19.

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Related: Return-to-workplace worries are affecting employee mental health

But LifeWorks’ mental health index, importantly, finds that company and HR leaders have significant work to do in both beefing up mental health support and helping alleviate barriers to care, including cost and time. Reminding employees about available benefit options, and encouraging them to use them, can make a significant difference, experts say.

“Americans have become more accepting of conversations regarding mental health. We’re seeing that their propensity to access support, however, is still limited due to significant financial and time barriers,” says Paula Allen, LifeWorks’ global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “People often do not realize the options available to them, like their employer-sponsored employee assistance program, health benefits and other sustainable wellbeing solutions. A significant portion of the American population has access to employer-paid mental-health support, and many may not be aware. As concerningly, delaying care actually makes things worse and more difficult to deal with in the longer term.”

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.