Only about half of people who need mental health care actually seek it, and those who do wait an average of 11 years. That means more than a decade of worsening health outcomes, increasing costs, and lost productivity. Employers can make a significant impact—and reduce claims costs—by offering virtual mental health care benefits and actively promoting them with regular engagement communications.
The vast majority of employers fail to do one simple but essential thing to support the mental health of their employees—drive awareness.
“Wait,” you’re saying. “We have a health plan that covers mental health. We’re doing the right thing here.” You are. But here’s the catch: Even people who desperately need mental health care often fail to seek it out on their own. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, Americans commonly wait 11 or more years after the onset of clinical mental health symptoms (depression, anxiety, etc.) before seeking help. Eleven years!
That’s expensive. Employees with mental health conditions submit an average of $10,000 more per year in claims than the total population. Untreated depression is linked to higher risks of heart attacks, substance abuse, physical pain, and other costly issues.
This is easily fixable. You’ve already done 99% of the work by going through plan negotiations and open enrollment. It just takes one last push to make sure your employees are actually taking advantage of the benefits you offer.
Why do people wait so long to seek mental health care?
A very large percentage of depressed Americans are undiagnosed. If people don’t know they have a problem, they won’t look for help solving it.
Even when they are aware, about half of Americans with clinical mental health issues do not seek help. The top five reasons: Lack of confidence that therapy will help, not knowing how to seek help, a preference for self-help, cost and access concerns, and stigma.
What can be done?
- Promote mental health care: Employer messaging about mental health can help overcome all of those objections. Internal marketing is also vital for employee engagement, which recently dipped nationally for the first time in a decade—due largely to a decline in employees feeling cared about.
- Make it part of your culture: Changing employee sentiment takes consistency and repetition. If someone needs help in September, the open enrollment messaging from nine months earlier is all but meaningless. For example, in our own experience here at Meru Health, we’ve found that a three-email campaign will lead to about 600% more people seeking help than a single email.
- Modernize to meet employee needs: Offer care is affordable, therapist-led, and delivered digitally. A 2022 Meru Health survey of 5,200 consumers found that they prioritize cost and access to real therapists above all else. And consumers now prefer digital access to mental health care over in-person treatment—which would explain why users of virtual care are more likely to report getting needed help than non-users.