16:34 PM

Mental Health is the New Business Imperative



The pandemic shone a light on the mental health crisis among employees. Learn why innovative employers are making it a priority.

By Frederick Villars, MD, Head of Psychiatry Services

Anxiety, depression, substance abuse — these challenges didn’t start in 2020. A mental health crisis was already well underway in the U.S. when the pandemic’s upheaval swelled the numbers of individuals facing mental health issues. Because people don’t set aside those issues when they start work every day, what may seem to be a personal challenge also becomes a business challenge. Employers are realizing they must support their employees’ mental well-being.

Workers are experiencing burnout, isolation and anxiety, whether working at home or on-site, and employers have to be part of the solution.

Just as companies invest in employees' physical health and safety, they should invest in their mental well-being. With good reason: Businesses are already feeling the impact to their bottom line. Globally, the World Health Organization reports that the cost of productivity lost due to depression and anxiety alone can reach up to $1 trillion a year.

Let’s bring that impact closer to home. Based on the National Safety Council’s cost calculator, a manufacturing company in New Jersey with 250 employees stands to lose an estimated $284,504 each year due to mental distress and illness. The company may see 149 missed workdays and 108 days skipped, which can lead to loss of productivity, poor morale and even safety issues.

And it’s not just larger employers that can feel the pressure. For a small management business with 50 employees, mental health costs could add up to $77,820 in just one year.

You can calculate the workplace cost mental health may be having on your organization by visiting the National Safety Council's site here.

The connection between body and mind may be compounding these costs.

McKinsey points out that stress and depression can be directly connected to physical illnesses that can be costly to treat. Mental health issues can often be a predictor of physical ailments, so addressing mental well-being can help increase physical well-being — lowering healthcare costs for each.

Workforce mental health is worth the investment

What’s encouraging is how quickly employers that provide mental health support see the return on that investment. For every dollar invested in mental health treatment, employers can average a return of $4 through:

  • Lower medical costs
  • Lower disability costs
  • Fewer missed workdays
  • Higher levels of productivity

It’s no wonder that large and midsize employers see investments in health and well-being as critical to the success of their business performance. According to the Business Group on Health annual employer survey, 92 percent expanded their support for mental health and well-being programs, including some for dependent children.

Organizations should start by communicating that they value the mental health of their employees from the leadership on down. Then they need to demonstrate that with their actions, such as by:

  • Expanding medical coverage to include mental health care, including telehealth, which has been embraced by employees and employers alike for its ease and scheduling flexibility
  • Training managers to understand mental well-being and support employees experiencing mental distress
  • Providing access to an employee assistance program (EAP) for referrals to mental health professionals and other services with strict confidentiality
  • Offering educational opportunities to destigmatize mental health and encourage self-care
  • Making employees aware of mental health resources and policies

Learn five more ways employers can help prevent job-related burnout and build a culture of better mental health.

Partnering to strengthen mental well-being

Horizon is here to support organizations and their employees with coverage and services that can help meet goals for both physical and mental health. The dedicated Horizon Behavioral Health care team stands ready to connect plan sponsors, employers, and members to the help they need:

  • Individual and group counseling
  • Crisis intervention and mental health treatment
  • Virtual doctor and therapy visits
  • Treatment programs for substance use disorder

Our Horizon Behavioral HealthSM website is also an effective resource, helping members find a behavioral health provider or check potential symptoms with self-assessment tools.