Addressing mental health in the workplace: How CEOs can take the lead

Deloitte recently released its Summer 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey, which features 115 leaders across 15 industries who have responded to a wide range of challenges resulting from the myriad crises we face as a global community. And they are many. Top concerns include finding talent, dealing with market anxiety and uncertainty, inflation, supply chain disruption and trying to stay positive. Most CEOs remain stable in their personal well-being, but it is clear that there is growing pessimism. While we are usually expected to constantly carry the torch of hope, we as CEOs must recognize that we are human and not as armored as we would like to be. In the midst of a phenomenal economic downturn and the “Great Recession” (as of November 2021, 4.53 million Americans have left their jobs), it is extremely important to take care of our mental health. And just as important, that of our employees.

There are dozens of studies and reports like this one from the International Foundation for Employee Benefit Plans that highlight the growing mental health problem among U.S. workers. The survey results show that more than four in five organizations (88%) believe that workers are more stressed now than before the pandemic.

  • 53% suffer from depression
  • 48% suffer from anxiety disorders
  • 32% are sleep deprived
  • 22% are addicted to alcohol
  • 20% suffer from ADHD
  • 19% are addicted to prescription drugs
  • 18% suffer from PTSD
  • 17% are addicted to over-the-counter drugs

When it comes to barriers preventing employees from addressing their mental health issues, 36% fear it will affect job security, 35% are concerned about privacy and 29% are not yet ready to do so the first step to dealing with your problems, which is the hardest. Coming from Israel, I was amazed to find the US healthcare system in such disarray. It accounts for 20% of GDP, yet has one of the worst health care systems among high-income countries. Life expectancy is declining for the first time in nearly a hundred years, and there is an unprecedented opioid crisis. I believe that the cause of these problems is the division between health care providers and health insurance companies. This division creates a disparity of interests between all parties. Many healthcare providers are more focused on the bottom line – defaulting to the most expensive solution – while insurance premiums are at their highest.

It should come as no surprise that more employees are now considering comprehensive health coverage and benefits as a deal-maker, which is why more employers are taking health seriously. A 2022 report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that health-related benefits were the number one priority for 88% of employers surveyed. Additionally, mental health coverage in 2022 reached a new high of 91% in 2022 following the COVID-19 pandemic, with benefits such as telemedicine or telehealth increasing.

Especially for employees facing mental health issues, telehealth can offer a silver lining. Visits can be done online, wherever and whenever the patient feels most comfortable, without worrying about privacy issues. It usually begins with an initial online questionnaire as part of a comprehensive mental health evaluation that is given to a board-certified physician. Then, in just 24 hours, the video call takes place, with the doctor providing a diagnosis and treatment plan. If necessary, the doctor can prescribe and direct the drug treatment of the patient. There is a wide range of telehealth providers that offer counseling and treatment as well as ongoing support for the following most common issues:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD Depression)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder (including panic attacks)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Insomnia

For many years, there was no way to measure the progress of a patient’s mental health. But today, through evidence-based enhanced care (EEBC), things are changing. By answering a set of scientifically validated questionnaires both before the first appointment and throughout the treatment process, doctors can measure progress and provide the best possible treatment. Clinical studies have repeatedly found that the EEBC method is up to twice as effective as usual care. The most progressive board certified mental health practitioner uses this EEBC method.

Employers who put mental health first understand the overall benefits of physical health. Mental stress, as most of us already know, leads to hypertension, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, digestive and reproductive problems, and an increased risk of heart attack. In the last two years, the incidence of heart attacks has risen sharply, especially in the under-40 age group. In fact, in the US, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds.

Too often we put our mental health at the bottom of a long list. However, as leaders it is important to lead by example. Organizations that are healthy, fair, do much better in times of market uncertainty. It’s just common sense. The mental and physical health of company leaders, as well as employees, is key to the stability of the organization. Teams function better and perform better when there is a sense of well-being. And it affects other aspects of life – from financial to social to family – outside of work. For companies that have yet to include mental health benefits, there are platforms that are affordable and easily accessible, even without insurance. So it pays to warn them about these options. There is no price one can put on health – both mental and physical. And there’s no time like the present to commit to positive change.


Written by Avihai Sodry.
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