Jo works in construction. Every day as he arrives at his site, he sees a sign championing the number of days since the company’s last accident.
Health and safety are at the core of everything they do. It’s in the employer handbook, it’s on signs and boards, it’s the main event at all the team’s meetings.
Physically speaking, Jo’s great. Over the last 25 years, days missed from physical injury and illness in the construction industry have been dropping. Stronger health and safety regulations work. Intervention and training works.
Jo’s mental health, however, is a different story. Jo suffers from depression and stress. His employer knows that he has taken some sick days this year, but that’s as much as they know. On the whole, men aren’t all that chatty when it comes to mental health.
But whether it’s talked about or not, mental health is a growing problem, with the numbers of people dealing with mental health concerns increasing substantially in the past decade.
Your business may be a law firm, a tech company, a consultancy, a public sector firm, a FTSE 100 or a construction business - it is widely agreed that people are the difference between success and failure, no matter the industry.
As such, HR teams are feeling increasingly pressured to crack the mental health conundrum, and mental wellness at work is one of the top three HR issues being discussed at board level (alongside hiring and diversity).
The good news is that the landscape of services aimed at assisting HR through mental health support is increasing. The not so good news is that that’s one more cost to find in your HR budget.
Or is it?
Insurance companies are now beginning to understand the growing importance of fast, effective and affordable mental health support.
We spoke to three of the UK’s biggest insurers and here are some of the themes that emerged:
Speed to Service
Insurers are looking for ways to get employees to access to support faster. Employee Assistance Programs are often under used and sometimes don’t have the skills to help with assessment.
With the growth in training of Mental Health First Aiders, we are seeing clearer signposting to help define pathways of employer care, as well as the embracing of mental health issues into the cultural fabric of companies.
Some organisations have taken this further and are working with services like HelloSelf (to give one example), which provides online video access to assessment and psychological treatment within days (as opposed to the average 6 week waiting time).
There is not a clinical psychologist in the country that does not wish they had met their patients earlier. Prevention and early intervention are not only the most cost-effective ways to treat mental health, but also the most successful.
Progressive insurance companies are starting to bolt on prevention measures to their contracts. This can include everything from access to wellbeing apps such as Unmind, all the way to incentivising healthy lifestyles with services like Vitality. Exercise is, after all, a simple but effective way to improve your mental health.
The cost of prevention is very small compared to the cost of treatment, which in turn pales in significance when compared to salary cover while on sick leave. Everyone wins if we keep people well and in work.
Focus on efficacy
A universal measurement of efficacy in mental health treatment is not clear or uniform. Most mental health interventions are, by their very nature, highly personalised.
For that reason, we at HelloSelf are working across the mental health industry and with insurers to try and gain insight into what works best for whom. All agree that the future of mental wellness (for those who are ill and those who are not) is personalised solutions.
Providing these solutions will require a lot more data, which is where insurance companies are ideally placed to help. They run some of the biggest clinics in the UK and refer tens of thousands of people each year.
Gaining a deeper understanding of what helps people feel better faster could radically change the effectiveness of talk therapy as an intervention method.
As a final thought, here are three actionable points for employers that came out of our discussions with insurers:
1. Ask your insurer for faster access to mental health assessments for your employees - the faster they are assessed the faster they can get treatment and the lower the total cost of treatment will be
2. Find out what prevention measures are included in your insurance package. Use them and ask for more!
3. Ask if there are any resources for HR managers. At HelloSelf we offer clinical supervision of the HR team so they can discuss difficult cases with a clinical director. With certain insurers we provide this as a free service
The overall landscape of mental wellbeing in the workplace is changing fast. People are starting to realise the impact that mental health has on our lives, societies and organisations, and it’s promising to see employers and insurers partner to tackle these issues together.
At HelloSelf we’re happy to be part of this shift in workplace culture and we’re very excited to see what can be achieved by collaboration in the near future.
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