Most of you who are reading this will have an EAP offering at your company. If you don't know, an EAP stands for Employee Assistance Program. It's a benefit offering that has become a standard throughout the nation. Basically, it has a lot of resources for all kinds of support (emotional, financial, legal, etc) all the while keeping it private so the company has no idea if you personally use it or not (they get an aggregate report to show overall uses, but no private info). These are great for a baseline offering to employees and their families struggling to get help, as they are also often times free up to a certain amount of use.
Both the blessing and the curse of EAP programs is they provide a baseline level of support. Blessing in that companies SHOULD have this - employees need to know they can get help when they need it - but also a curse in that with a national average of around 10% employee usage (depending on who you listen to) companies might get comfortable only helping a small amount of their employees. You remember that old saying "Good is the killer of Great"? Yep.
I'm not here to say EAP programs aren't good - but I will say they aren't the whole picture. Here's a glaring point: One of the biggest uses and selling points for EAP programs is mental health resources. How can a 5 or 6 session (normally what's included in an EAP offering) mental health offering that at most 10% are utilizing going to support the needs of your organization? This is an ongoing problem and one that is an epidemic in our country right now. I mean think about it, if MHA (Mental Health America) spoke in their yearly conference about how mental health issues affects almost 50% of our population this isn't something we should begin addressing, this is something we should've addressed decades ago. Now, we're under resourced and facing an pandemic that turns out, adds just that little bit more of stress on those already underlying issues.
What we'd like to see is all of us taking a hard look at our mental wellbeing and begin to see it as a normal function of our every day life. We'd love to see it be covered under a yearly visit for insurance purposes (although, we know we're a long way away from it) and regular visits to the psychiatrist starting at adolescence. We'd also be in favor of having more support in this area be available for low income families - often those affected more so - at a reasonable low-to-no cost to them.
While all these wishes will take a lot more than any one company or person could do, what can companies begin with? An easy implementation process that we think many companies could see quick benefits from is to have this as a part of their regular yearly wellbeing incentive. You can reimburse the cost and offer an incentive (which you are probably already doing) towards their health insurance. After all, according to recent research done telomeres and aging are most affected by smoking and stress. You have a smoking policy don't you? Then why not have something in place to deal with mental health as well?
Let's all continue to push the boundaries of what we can do for one another and for our employees. Mental health issues are already upon us in record numbers and they aren't going away by only treating a few of us - it'll take more drastic measures to help. If you're looking to talk more about this and see how you can support your employees, feel free to reach out and Contact Us to begin the conversation!