Mental health communication cannot be a ‘one and done’ event

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Financial wellness, disability insurance and employee assistance programs can all help employees who are struggling with mental health issues.

But if employers don’t have the proper communication strategy, workers could be missing out on potentially useful offerings, says Beth Chiappetta, product strategy lead at Cigna. For example, employees often think that programs like EAPs can only help them in a crisis, but these programs often include diverse benefits such as elder care, childcare and financial planning, she adds.

“Employers need to have a robust campaign around employee assistance programs. It’s not a one and done,” she says.

See also: Why 24/7 work culture is causing workers to burn out

Employers have long struggled to improve their communications campaigns surrounding benefits. Workers often spend less than three hours researching prospective health plans, according to data from UnitedHealthcare. Communicating benefits through a variety of different channels during open enrollment and beyond can help workers make better decisions about their offerings.

The same goes for mental health benefits, Chiappetta says. Employers could consider holding lunch and learns and producing podcasts as a way to get the word out.

“A lot of times employees find out about these benefit offerings in an email,” she says. “Employers need to take a broader approach by doing other things.”

Training managers is also an important aspect of benefits communication about mental healthcare. Managers are often the “first line of defense” before a mental health disability claim occurs, Chiappetta says.

“[Managers] should have regular one-on-one processes, discussing with their employees the resources that are available to them,” she adds.

See also: The challenges employers face with mental health — and how to address them

Sophie Cikovsky, associate vice president at the communications firm Infinite Global says that employers should develop a culture where people feel comfortable talking about their mental wellness.

“[Employers should] establish a culture of open communication where people feel comfortable talking to their managers about things other than their day-to-day job,” Cikovsky says. “Managers can also ask open-ended questions to get information about how their employee is doing, and to show that they care. Establishing an open dialogue is important.”

While employers are taking notice of these issues, there is still room for improvement, Chiappetta says. By working with carriers and benefits providers to analyze employee population data, companies can get a better sense of where they can make the most impact with benefits. For example, if a client is seeing a large number of mental health disability claims, it may be time to look into behavioral health benefits including coaching and counseling services.

“Their employee population, health services providers and disability carriers should be able to guide them to improve their employee productivity as well as their total mind and health,” she adds.

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