Lyra Health adds Calm app to ease COVID-19 mental health strain

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With stress, anxiety and burnout on the rise, employers are seeking new ways to support workers struggling with poor mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lyra Health, a mental benefits provider, is adding the Calm app to their benefit offerings to help manage the added stress. Over 1.5 million employees will have access to the popular resiliency training app, as the new partnership expands mental health support to employees who may be resistant to more traditional modes of therapy.

“The urgency has never been greater than it is now to provide holistic mental health services,” says Joe Grasso, clinical director of partnerships at Lyra Health. “It's a way to support people who maybe aren't ready to engage in therapy but want to dip their toe into some kind of wellness support.”

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Users who have access to Calm can practice mindfulness, tap into relaxation and meditation exercises and learn sleep improvement techniques. At the start of the pandemic, the wellness platform boosted their free resources for all users to include meditation calendars and gratitude journals.

“It’s a credible tool that folks recognize as being helpful and effective, and it’s another valuable resource to support the workforce around mental health challenges,” Grasso says.

More than 80% of U.S. employees have experienced mental health issues due to the coronavirus, including anxiety, insomnia and burnout, according to a study by Lyra Health and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. Thirty percent of employees said they are so stressed that it interferes with their work.

“The hold that the pandemic has on people’s lives can’t be separated from how people show up at work,” Grasso says. “It’s affecting their ability to be productive, to concentrate, to focus. Ultimately, people bring their entire selves to work, so whatever is happening is going to manifest in the workplace.”

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Currently, 79% of employers offer an EAP with mental health resources, yet just 10% of employees utilize those tools, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. But since the start of the pandemic, employers including Starbucks, Benefitfocus and Anthem have all expanded their mental health offerings to include free telehealth services, mental health consultations and online wellness apps.

Pinterest is one such employer that boosted employee benefits by adding the Calm app to their portfolio. The social media company saw the benefit of a resource that combats the stigma associated with seeking care.

“This integrated offering from Lyra and Calm aligns with our broader focus on destigmatizing and prioritizing mental health and well-being in our workplace,” said Alice Vichaita, head of global benefits at Pinterest.

Employers have a responsibility to care for employees who may be struggling by making resources accessible, Grasso says.

“Employers need to make sure their benefits are addressing the entire spectrum,” he says. “Then it’s not just about saying ‘this is available.’ Leadership should educate employees about the benefits of these programs and model the prioritization of using these things.”

In addition to the Calm app, Lyra Health is expanding their mental health offerings to include a personalized 6-week digital self-care coaching program, where employees will be matched with mental health professionals using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

“Mental health is affecting all of us this year, and we’ve been chipping away at the stigma this year more than in previous years,” Grasso says. “The comfort of telehealth makes mental healthcare access more feasible, and it’s just as useful and effective.”

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Telehealth Mental health Mental health benefits Stress management Coronavirus HR Technology Resource Center Employee benefits