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The Effectiveness of Mental Health Benefits in the Employee Benefits Package
Mental health matters have changed the views that a significant number of employers across the globe used to have, which focused on health as a responsibility of an individual employee. It is notable that, in the past decade, health care professionals demonstrated that mental health problems are also strongly correlated with a number of chronic health problems.
This could imply that persons who have specific chronic illnesses have increased chances of developing difficulties related to mental disorders. In the contemporary world, a significant number of employees are working past their retirement age and this could mean that many generations are being utilised in the workplace at the same time.
The involvement of many workers in the workplace concurrently shows that a large proportion of personnel are raising their families as well as taking care for their elderly parents who are in great need of specialised and personal care. It is worth noting that this could lead to high rates of employee stress and absenteeism (Marlow, 2002).
For example, in 1999, it was shown that 6 percent of workers were absent from work on some or all days of the week. When they were asked why they were absent, they gave their personal reasons. It is notable that the figure did not decrease 10 years later when the level of absenteeism was proved to be 8.2 percent (Marlow, 2002).
The adoption of technological applications in the workplace has also been blamed for the increasing levels of employee stress. The use of Wi-FI, email and hi-tech mobile phones, among other products of technological advancements, makes a significant number of staff to spend more hours working.
In fact, it is argued that the use of technological applications make many workers leave work when they walk out of the door at the end of the day or when they are on vacation. The fact that a considerable number of staff are being continuously connected tom their work issues could mean that personnel are exposed to more situations that could make them develop stress related to work.
The high rates of work involvement could also imply that employees do not have an adequate time to disengage from their work lives. In turn, there is a compromise with regard to the health work-life that is important for workers in the modern world. It is more worrying because workers take their work-related problems to their homes and take their personal problems to the workplace.
It has been shown that 20% of adults a high probability of developing a mental abnormality, which could be detected through conventional and highly specialised diagnostic methods.
The big number of personnel who could develop a mental illness annually could result in huge financial implications for business establishments (employers). For example, it approximated that companies spend an average of 90 billion USD annually to cater for medical expenses incurred by workers with regard to treating mental illnesses.
It has been demonstrated that employee absenteeism has more chances of being caused by stress and anxiety rather than being caused by physical injury or illness. Employers have to accept about 30% of disability cases that could be termed as having a corporate aspect.
The high percent can be attributed to the fact that short-term disability claims in the workplace can increase by about 10% annually. However, it is worth noting that in any given year, only less than a third of adults with diagnosable mental disorder actually seek and receive treatment.
With time, a number of business establishments are acknowledging the fact that the health of workers could either negatively or positively impact them. For example, an organisation that is exemplified by a significant number of personnel who have good health could have excellent individual performance outcomes. In turn, the outcomes have an overall positive influence on the competitiveness of a firm.
In fact, an organisation that is relatively competitive in comparison with its competitors could have unique performance results.
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Continued research in the areas of personnel health and productivity levels of firms has demonstrated that a considerable number of employers are aware of the critical responsibilities in ensuring that workers achieve better health outcomes (Marlow, 2002). As a result, many employers are investing in programmes that could be utilised to improve their employees’ wellbeing (Marlow, 2002; Sharar, 2009).
It was noted that during the ten-year period from 1987 to 1997, the number of persons who sought treatment for stress in the US alone increased three times. Furthermore, the number of patients who were actually diagnosed with any form of depression and given antidepressant drugs doubled in the same period, i.e. from 37.3% in 1987 to 74.5% in 1997.
However, it is important to note that cases of psychotherapy reduced insignificantly from 71.1% to 60.2% (Goetzel, Ozminkowski, Sederer & Mark, 2002). It is no doubt that workers who present with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety could have more needs of health care attention, relatively high rates of absenteeism and a higher probability of developing disabilities, some of which could be life-threatening.
Several factors have been blamed for these outcomes. For example, low levels of motivation and poor work attitudes in the workplace could negatively impact many workers. This could result in increased turnover and worsened performance outcomes of organisations.
However, in the recent past, managers of firms have concentrated on understanding the correlations between health of personnel and their productivity. The focus has led to the adoption of new ways of thinking with regard to staff. In fact, many employers view their personnel as vital resources as opposed to the line item expenses view that was previously adopted.
Thus, a significant number of managers aim at attracting and retaining intellectual capital, which is characterised by excellent health. There is a strong correlation between employees’ health outcomes and their performances in the workplace.
It would be important to formulate a business case for improved awareness that would focus on problems, which would be related to employee mental health. Such a case would act as an essential foundation for improving health, containing medical cost and improving productivity of personnel in the workplace.
In 2002, it was noted that about seventy-five individuals who suspected that they were suffering from depression sought medical interventions from their primary care doctors. However, only 50% of the persons was found to be in need of treatment while 20% of the people was advised to seek the attention of mental health specialists (Goetzel et al., 2002).
Some of the important gains that have been realised with regard to reducing the negative impacts of mental health issues can be attributed to the Mental Health Parity Act. The health act was signed into law by the then president of the US, Bill Clinton.
It seeks to reduce variations that are experienced with regard to how health care insurance plans aim at treating offering treatment for health benefits related to mental functioning and offering treatment options to cater for medical and surgical benefits (Morton & Aleman, 2005). It is important noting that all the benefits can be exemplified by either lifetime or yearly benefits, which are evaluating the US dollar.
However, one of the greatest demerits of the mental health act is that it does not authorise employers to provide their workers with mental health coverage. In addition, it only seeks to focus on employers who give plans that are characterised by a well defined mental health coverage (Morton & Aleman, 2005).
Ueda and Niino (2012) contend that personnel who work for business establishments that are exemplified by excellent mental health benefits often report relatively high levels of job satisfaction and feelings of quality treatment that is practised by their employers (Ueda & Niino, 2012).
On the other hand, if an employer does not adopt programmes that focus on effective mental health care benefits, then it would incur comparatively high costs. From a long-term standpoint, the costs would be attributed to the significant number of workers who would end up untreated and result to the use of non-psychiatric impatient and outpatient services.
Ueda and Niino (2012) demonstrate that the number of the untreated personnel is threefold the number of treated workers. It has also been noted that 50% of workers’ visits to primary health care providers are as a result of clinical signs that have no physical link (McClellan, McKethan, Lewis, Roski & Fisher, 2010). However, such symptoms are often correlated to cases of depression or anxiety.
The signs can show in the forms of chest pain, dizzy spells, abdominal pain, disrupted sleep patterns, fatigue, and headaches. Furthermore, it is evident that workers who are characterised by untreated mental health problems have 50% more likelihood of visiting non-mental health professionals than those who are fully diagnosed with the health conditions and offered the best treatment.
A focus on the managed care benefits, especially with regard to depression treatment, has shown that the retention depressed workers results in worse health outcomes (Morton & Aleman, 2005).
It is worth to note that problems related to mental malfunctioning contribute to more lost days in the workplace than other illnesses, for example, gout arthritis and diabetes (Marlow, 2002). In fact, personnel have been shown to miss work in more than 217 million days as a result of worse productivity, which is caused by mental issues and disorders that are caused by abuse of various substances either in the workplace or at home.
The proportion of the lost days annually has a great negative impact on the economy of the US. Specifically, the nation employers in the US incur losses amounting to 17 billion dollars yearly. However, it is important noting that the costs that are related to mental and drug abuse disorders are relatively high. They have been estimated to range from 79 to 105 billion US dollars (Kowlessar, Henke, Goetzel, Colombi & Felter, 2010).
It is worrying that disability costs, which directly correlate with cases of psychiatric disorders, are on an upward trend. Among individuals aged between 15 and 44 in the US and Canada, disabilities are mainly caused by mental and drug abuse issues. In the context of the US alone, the two disorders combined significantly contribute to both short-term and long-term disabilities.
Research has shown that psychotherapy is superior to medication with regard to managing mental disorders. In one study, forty-six health clinics participating in 6 managed care organisations were offered exhaustive training programmes that aimed at assessing the benefits of adopting either psychotherapy or medication (Morton & Aleman, 2005).
One of the clinics was a normal health clinic, which acted as a reference for comparison. Using a sample size of 1350 patients, the study was conducted over a two-year period that involved following the study participants retrospectively. At the end of the follow-up, it was noted that individuals who focused on psychotherapy achieved more benefits than those who focused on the use of medication treatment.
However, the initiative that used psychotherapy approaches proved to be more expensive than the one using medications to manage mental disorders.
Although alcohol consumption, clinical depression and social phobia have been identified as the main causes of the most significant number of lost workdays, there is a huge worry for employees and employers with regard to the quality of health care that workers receive in order to manage their mental health problems (McClellan et al., 2010; Young, Klap, Sherbourne & Wells, 2001).
It is undisputable that behavioural health care outcomes vary among workers. Young and colleagues (2001) argue that the uneven provision of excellent behavioural health attention that is offered to personnel in the US makes a considerable number of Americans receive sub-standard care.
For example, it is approximated that only about 32.7% of persons are treated for mental or drug abuse disorders receive adequate treatment. Furthermore, health care professionals who treat workers suffering from the two disorders greatly influence the quality of treatment that they receive (Young et al., 2001).
Generally, it has been demonstrated that mental health patients who receive care from mental health specialists have better chances of receiving high quality care than those who seek services of general health care practitioners. Below are some of the reasons that are given by workers who do not seek mental health care (Young et al., 2001):
- High treatment costs
- Assumption with regard to fast healing
- Problematic health insurance policies
- Lack of interest in treatment
- Insufficient time
- Fear to take medications
- General lack of knowledge
- Presence of access barriers
Even though workers could lack mental health issues, they could experience a number of stressors that could be caused by the nature of their work and factors in their personal lives (EASNA, 2009). Such stressors could have many impacts on individuals both at home and in the workplace.
In the workplace, personnel could be exemplified by low levels of job satisfaction, which could culminate in poor performance outcomes (Ueda & Niino, 2012). Employers can tackle the problem by ensuring that workers access consultation services that would be aimed at enabling them to understand their emotional and work-related issues.
After they are treated, they would undergo short-term counselling and advising those in need to longer-term care seek services of more specialised services from specific care providers. Some employers are also utilising Employee Assistance programmes (EAPs) that focus on educating both employers and workers about skills that could be important in tackling general issues as they arise (Taranowski & Mahieu, 2013).
The use of approaches that are based on EAP has the potential of helping employers to increase improvement levels in the workplace. In addition, they are the strategies are essential in the costs that are incurred by organisations as a result of managing behavioral health issues (Taranowski & Mahieu, 2013).
A large-scale study was conducted in 1998 to evaluate the costs associated with managing personnel suffering from depression and those who did not have the condition. It involved 46,000 workers who were randomly selected from many organisations. The study demonstrated that staff who self-reported major depression spent $2907 more than those who did not suffer from the health condition.
Only 14.3% of the study participants were shown to have sought services of specialised mental health care professionals. They included psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. In many instances, employers do not evaluate the negative impacts of mental health problems that affect their staff. The failure to conduct thorough evaluations can be attributed to three reasons (Taranowski & Mahieu, 2013).
First, there are inadequate resources that can be applied by managers in firms. Second, there is no consensus with regard to the modest quality mental health care should be commonly used. Third, there is a general believe that mental health care can result in disability.
When addressing workplace strategies of dealing with issues that are associated with mental malfunctions, it is important to understand that medical doctors, public health officials and psychologists have developed such approaches independently. The professionals have asserted that stigmatisation in the workplace due to mental health issues.
In fact, stigmatisation remains an omnipresent challenge towards the attainment of excellent health outcomes. For example, a study was conducted in the US that involved 6,399 workers who were randomly selected from thirteen organisations. Its findings showed that 62% of the personnel understood the procedures for accessing organisation resources, which contained important information about depression care.
However, only 29% of the respondents expressed confidence in sharing their mental problems with their seniors. The unwillingness of workers to disclose their mental health issues o their supervisors can be attributed to culture and norms in firms, which do not support such disclosures.
Thus, interventions are also aimed at transforming unsupportive attitudes of leaders and managers in the workplace (Taranowski & Mahieu, 2013). The adoption of accommodation approaches is key to enabling seniors to accommodate personnel who develop mental health conditions.
Finally, it would be important for employers to their roles in impacting the health their workers, which would result in improved performance outcomes. The roles include implementing tested worker education initiatives, offering services for screening and early diagnosis, promoting health, eliminating barriers to accessing care, and providing worker assistance programmes (EASNA, 2009; Kowlessar et al., 2010; Sharar, 2009).
In conclusion, it is evident that mental health issues have great impacts on the performances of individual workers in the workplace. Consequently, workers who suffer from the health conditions could affect the overall performance of an organisation. It is worrying because the number of workers who are diagnosed with clinical depression and stress, among other mental problems, is increasing annually.
The quality of mental health care that is received by personnel in the US is very low. Several studies have been conducted with regard to the topic because of its significance of the economy of US organisations and the overall economy of the nation. The Mental Health Parity Act is important in reducing the suffering that mentally ill workers undergo, which significantly reduce their performances.
When addressing mental health issues in the workplace, it is essential to underscore the roles of employers in helping their staff to attain excellent mental health care. In addition to providing supportive norms, they also aim at offering screening and early diagnosis, among other services.
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