Why don't employees use company mental health benefits? 

Since the pandemic exposed the depth of the mental health crisis among workers in the U.S., more companies have been expanding their mental health offerings. However, these benefits are still underused, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 29. 

According to Darren Brooks, PhD, executive director of the Center for Human Resource Management at Florida State University, less than 8 percent of employees take advantage of employee assistance plans, which usually provide employees with a set number of counseling sessions each year at no cost. 

One reason for this is miscommunication. Many employees don't know they have access to assistance plans, as they often get overshadowed by big-ticket benefit items like healthcare and paid leave policies. Other employees are worried they'll face repercussions if they disclose their mental health issues. Even if employees do sign up to speak to therapists, they can be met with long wait times. 

In light of these challenges, it's important that executives and managers encourage employees to make full use of assistance plans. One way to do this is by expanding and scaling offerings. Executives should consider adding more sessions so employees can develop meaningful and productive relationships with therapists.

Another critical solution is to destigmatize mental health in the workplace. Executives need to change company culture around mental health by openly and actively discussing it. Speaking to specific challenges that employees may face and offering solutions and support may help, as well as sharing personal stories.

"In a psychologically safe workplace, managers learn to lead their teams in a way that allows employees to speak up if they are struggling or being affected by something that is happening at work or in the world at large," Joe Grasso, PhD, senior director of workforce mental health at Lyra Health, told The Wall Street Journal

 

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