How Employers Can Deliver Mental Health Solutions

May 2, 2023

On May 1, the start of national Mental Health Awareness Month, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) published research findings that should serve as a stark warning to employers: You may be part of the problem. 

According to SHRM, 1 in 3 U.S. employees “say their job has had a negative impact on their mental health over the past six months.” And, SHRM reports, “If conditions don’t improve, (employees) might leave for other opportunities.” 

In an article titled “SHRM Research: Work Is Negatively Impacting Employees’ Mental Health,” SHRM’s lead researcher, Ragan Decker, Ph.D., notes, “This finding suggests that employees are looking to their organizations to take an active role in supporting their mental health. This reflects a growing awareness of the importance of mental health in the workplace and the need for employers to address it. Employers will need to recognize and adapt to these changing expectations.” 

Help Is on the Way 

Join Alera Group on Thursday, May 18, for The Mindful Workplace: Addressing Employees’ Mental Health, the next event in our Engage series of webinars on timely topics in employee benefits and human resources. The webinar follows Alera Group’s recent release of the Mental Health Awareness Toolkit, a collection of resources to help employers strengthen their support of employee mental health.  

The upcoming webinar is designed for employers and HR professionals who may feel overwhelmed by the mental health needs of their workforce and require actionable strategies they can apply right now. We’ll discuss how to access the right type of resources to serve your employees’ particular needs, addressing concerns such as: 

  • Quality of care, a critical factor in prevention and condition management; 

  • Access to local care, when telemedicine isn’t an option; 

  • Specialty care, for conditions requiring particular expertise;  

  • Costs, with the large number of out-of-network mental health practitioners contributing to problems of affordability. 

We’ll also talk about examining the mental health benefits you currently offer and communicating their availability to your team. Far too often, employers offer a multitude of benefits their employees either don’t know exist, don’t understand or don’t know how to access. 

And we’ll discuss the importance of adapting the way we talk about mental health to build and maintain workplaces that support individuals on all levels.  

Joining me as panelists for the webinar will be: 

  • Rachael Steimnitz — Director of Workplace Mental Health at the National Alliance on Mental Illness-New York City Metro (NAMI-NYC) 

  • Jennifer Hunter — Senior Director, Health Plan Partnerships, at Meru Health 

  • Kathy Ellis — Director of Health and Wellness at Granite Group Benefits, An Alera Group Company. 

Pragmatism and the Pandemic 

On its information-filled webpage Mental health at work, The World Health Organization (WHO) offers these as “key facts” regarding the pure practicality of employer support for employee mental health: 

  • “Decent work is good for mental health. 

  • “Poor working environments – including discrimination and inequality, excessive workloads, low job control and job insecurity – pose a risk to mental health. 

  • “Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. 

  • “There are effective actions to prevent mental health risks at work, protect and promote mental health at work, and support workers with mental health conditions.” 

Hard to argue with anything there. 

WHO also reports that “15% of working-age adults were estimated to have a mental disorder in 2019.” Here it’s important to point out that pre-pandemic figures regarding mental health must be considered in context. Yes, mental health in the workplace was a growing concern before COVID-19, but surveys on emotional and psychological wellbeing since the March 2020 declaration of the pandemic reveal significant increases in anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidal ideation. 

In “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use” – a Kaiser Family Foundation brief updated March 20, 2023, to incorporate the most recent available data – the brief’s authors provide extensive statistical evidence of a pandemic-fueled crisis and conclude: 

“Although steps have been taken to address negative mental health impacts stemming from the pandemic, mental health and substance use concerns remain elevated. Heightened racism and increasing gun violence may also contribute to poor mental health outcomes. Further, negative mental health impacts have been more pronounced among several populations, including communities of color, young adults and children – populations which have historically experienced increased barriers to care ... 

“History has shown that the mental health impact of disasters outlasts the physical impact, suggesting today’s elevated mental health needs will continue well beyond the coronavirus outbreak itself. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the federal public health emergency draws to an end, it will be important to consider how the increased need for mental health and substance use services may persist long term, even as new cases and deaths due to COVID-19 hopefully subside.” 

Beyond Mental Health Awareness Month 

Both the Mental Health Awareness Toolkit and the May 18 webinar are resources that will serve not only your immediate needs but also your — and your employees’ — needs long after Mental Health Awareness Month is over. The toolkit is available now. To register for the webinar, click on the link below. 


About the Author 

Gretchen Day, MPH, MCHES 

VP of Health Innovations and Advanced Strategies 

Alera Group  

Through her role at Alera Group, Gretchen Day satisfies her passion for public health by working with businesses and their employees to improve workplace culture and influence change in their healthcare delivery system. Ultimately, her goal is to help individuals access better quality healthcare, while advancing innovative thinking to bring about change in the way healthcare is delivered. Gretchen earned her Master of Public Health degree from the Penn State College of Medicine and Master Certified Health Education Specialist certification from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.  

Contact Information: