Organisations that are keen to support employee well-being are often searching for the next mental health theme to keep the topic alive. Employees with declining mental health are a direct cost to the business bottom line.
There are several options that companies can look at including offering access to
- Employee assistance programmes (EAPs),
- Mental health first aid training,
- Cognitive-based therapy,
- e-Mental Health services, and
- MicroLearning to teach strategies and coping mechanisms.
For this article, we summarise the benefits and outcomes that you can expect from each of these options to guide you in your next mental health theme.
What are the costs of declining mental health?
The highest cost to employers from employees with declining mental health is lost productivity while they are at work. Lost productivity extends to the work culture and environment and affects others around them.
- Each year, 20% of Australians experience mental ill-health
- Mental ill-health costs the economy $60 billion a year
- Investment in workplace mental health could improve workforce participation rates by as much as 30%
- 73% of people with workplace mental illness took five days or more off work
- 25% of the workforce suffer mild depression resulting in 50 hours of absenteeism per person each year.
See our article on the 3 steps to a mentally healthy workplace.
Do Employee Assistance Programs help?
Employee Assistance Programmes offer counselling services for the employee. In some cases, EAP’s also provide workshops and training on a mental health theme, such as managing stress and prioritising workloads.
Their services remain confidential; however, employees need to understand how to contact them. Sometimes, this might mean talking to their manager or supervisor, which may act as a barrier to seeking help. More needs to be done to provide employees with confidential access.
Employees with declining mental health who attended Employee Assistance Programmes counselling see positive improvements. Employees who access their EAP have improved clinical outcomes as well as an increase in their productivity. They are less likely to take days off work after receiving one-on-one counselling services. Counselling is the first step to addressing their mental health decline and symptoms.
However, on average, only 3-5% of employees access their EAP when they need help. Stigma, the fear of being treated differently and a lack of understanding about mental health symptoms all contribute to the lack of uptake.
See our article, Do Employee Assistance Programs Work?
What about Mental Health First Aid Training?
There are times when an employee seeks advice and help for declining mental health from their direct manager or supervisor. Many managers and supervisors feel they’re not prepared or qualified in how best to respond in these situations. Because of this, some organisations are turning to mental health first aid training for their front-line leaders. But does it help?
Recent research investigated if participation in mental health first aid training would increase mental health literacy, improve attitudes and increase the help and support managers can offer.
The study found that mental health first aid training is very good at increasing knowledge regarding mental health issues. The training also helped to decrease negative attitudes towards people with mental health issues. Employees need to feel safe when they reach out and seek help.
The fear of not being treated the same if they speak up prevents people from seeking help. After receiving the training, managers and supervisors were more likely to provide support when asked.
Mental health first aid training increases mental health literacy. Trainees achieve improvement in self-recognition. There is an increased insight into one’s own and others’ emotional wellbeing. The training enhances mental health-related vocabulary. These outcomes lead to increased coping skills and improved confidence to provide informed support for employees with mental health issues.
See our article on Does Mental Health First Aid Training Help?
What does Cognitive-Based Therapy offer?
Organisations seeking to improve employee mental health could consider intervention programs. There is some evidence that workplace cognitive-based therapy (CBT) intervention programs can help. CBT has been shown to improve employee wellbeing and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. Offering CBT may be an excellent mental health theme for your organisation.
However, most interventions require substantial amounts of face to face teaching or group training time. Training can be a single four-hour session to a year-long intervention aimed at redesigning the work environment. For many organisations, the costs will prohibit uptake, KPMG argues in the Investing To Save Report that rolling out e-health CBT on a large scale, could see savings to the Australian economy of $442 million.
How can e-mental health help?
Mental health support services are severely overloaded, and e-health technologies can assist in taking some of the load. e-Mental health interventions can deliver psychological therapies by the telephone, using video-conference and through apps. They can be highly effective, particularly for mild to moderate mental illnesses.
Safe Work NSW recommends its use in the workplace and community to support declining mental health. KPMG noted in the Investing To Save Report that e-Health interventions have the potential to deliver an ROI of $1.60 for every one dollar spent.
For companies looking for their next mental health theme, e-mental health interventions remove barriers typically experienced in traditional face-to-face interactions. These programmes address the barriers because they are usually:
- Low cost
- Faithful to the intervention process
- Reduce the issues of stigma
- Provide increased privacy
- Easily accessed
e-Mental health interventions are showing a positive impact on symptoms of major depression, panic disorder, social phobia and general anxiety.
See our article, Can Software Encourage Help Seeking?
Would a MicroLearning mental health theme be useful?
MicroLearning is all about training in small doses, often daily. This method assists people by delivering critical key facts in short bursts.
MicroLearning is already in use for several business purposes, including leadership, supervision and technical skills. However, it is relatively new to mental health training.
Where MicroLearning can help mental health training is when we want to train and reinforce critical concepts. For example, when we want to teach about the signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression. Or we might offer, quick reminders of workplace bullying policies or stress-reducing tips.
One advantage of MicroLearning is that it enhances the retention of knowledge by making an abstract point more concrete. For example, we could use this method to teach how to move depressive thoughts into positive ones.
To ensure effective MicroLearning for mental health training, organisations should:
- Focus on one topic at a time for each training piece
- Use interactive multi-media deliveries
- Provide short videos of less than 5 minutes
- Assess using short quizzes to check users progress
Part of an integrated approach to workplace mental health training is to include online and mobile-friendly solutions such as the Tap Into Safety Mental Health Training. Our platform is focussed on the employee and uses MicroLearning methods. We aim to increase their mental health literacy by providing animated stories on workplace stressors that can impact on their mental health.
See our article, Can MicroLearning Improve Safety Training?
Organisations who are looking for their next mental health theme to address declining mental health have several options that they can use. They can invest in an employee assistance programme, which has been shown to improve clinical outcomes and increase productivity. They can provide mental health first aid training for supervisors and managers which can increase knowledge of mental health issues and decrease negative attitudes.
Companies can invest in workplace cognitive-based therapy interventions which could see savings to the Australian economy of $442 million. Or they can use e-Mental Health services to support employees with mild to moderate mental illnesses. Finally, they can look at MicroLearning solutions to teach strategies and coping mechanisms.
There are a few decisions for you to make in terms of your next mental health theme. Given that at any given time, 20% of your employees are experiencing declining mental health, it might be time to look beyond your current mental health programme.