EAP & Mental Health

Communication that connects your employees to the right resources to support their mental health.

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Mental health affects every stage and aspect of our lives. In the workplace, poor mental health can seriously impact an employee’s ability to contribute. The right communication can help reduce the stigma around mental health and make it possible for employees to connect to valuable resources for support.

What is employee mental health?

MentalHealth.gov offers the following powerful definition: “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we manage stress, relate to others and make healthy choices.”

It’s also becoming increasingly clear that physical and mental health are intertwined. Poor physical health can have a significant negative impact on mental health and vice versa.

Why is employee mental health important?

It’s a cycle. Mental health and wellbeing significantly impact an employee’s ability to contribute meaningfully at work. And workplace environments and cultures have a big impact on employee mental health. Stressors on the job — like unclear tasks, poor communication and inflexible working hours — can exacerbate both mental and physical health conditions.

Supporting employee mental health is a great example of “doing well by doing good.” The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. But WHO also found that for every $1 spent on treating common mental health concerns, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.

Workplaces that promote mental health and support employees and family members with mental illness are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and prevent burnout.

How to communicate employee mental health

At PartnerComm, we focus on 3 main components of employee mental health communication:

  1. Reducing stigma.
  2. Promoting relevant policies.
  3. Promoting relevant benefits.

All 3 elements are crucial. You need to create an environment where employees feel comfortable asking for help and you need to have the right policies and resources to support them.

Reducing the stigma

Mental illness is a health problem just like cancer and diabetes. But the reality is that the world sees it differently and reacts to it differently. For whatever reason, mental illness is seen as a character flaw or a sign of weakness and is often perceived as shameful and scary.

This stigma creates a significant barrier to diagnosis and treatment. According to CAMH, stigma prevents 40% of people with anxiety or depression from seeking medical help.

Employers can help by combating mental health misconceptions and talking openly and honestly about mental health issues. Consider these approaches to reducing workplace mental health stigma and promoting positive mental health awareness:

  • Create an online community (on your intranet or benefits website) dedicated to mental health. Invite employees to share personal stories, post educational content and offer links to relevant resources.
  • Have leaders share their thoughts on company calls and in their blog posts and Tweets. Leaders can also model the desired behavior by speaking authentically about their own (or a loved one’s) struggles with mental health and by encouraging colleagues to seek help.
  • Create mandatory training to help managers understand what mental health is, why it’s important and how to talk about mental health confidentially and respectfully. Make sure your managers can recognize the early warning signs of mental health issues and that they know how to support employees who are struggling.
  • In all communication, emphasize that we all have mental health, and that the issue of positive mental health is important to everyone. Be sure to choose your words carefully and use respectful language. Whenever possible, share facts about mental health that can help educate employees and combat common myths.

Promoting relevant policies

For many companies, the work around mental health starts with examining workplace policies and practices and making positive changes to support mental health. That means looking at health and safety policies, time away policies, workload distribution, recognition practices and more.

It’s important to promote all of the policies you have in place to help employees balance work and life and manage their mental health. You may offer time off for bereavement, emergencies, volunteerism and life events, but do your employees know what’s available to them?

This is especially important if you’re making a change to your policies to better support mental health. Be sure to communicate what the change means for employees, when it’s coming and why you’re making it.

You can share information about relevant policies on your intranet or benefits website and in emails, home mailings, your employee handbook, your new hire guide, company meetings and more.

Promoting relevant benefits

You can’t communicate your relevant benefits if you don’t know what they are. Start by making a list of all your employee mental health programs and solutions. It’s important to think broadly — what do you have that can help across the spectrum from healthy to in crisis? Be sure to include the following (if you have them):

  • Medical plan coverage for mental health and substance abuse.
  • Virtual visits with a counselor or therapist.
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
  • Resilience training and coaching.
  • Elder care resources.
  • Child care resources.
  • Financial wellness.

Once you’ve created the list, it’s critical to develop a comprehensive strategy for promoting those solutions. Your strategy could include:

  • An email series highlighting various solutions.
  • Comprehensive intranet or benefits website content.
  • Home mailers on high-priority or low utilization benefits.
  • A text messaging campaign with distinct calls to action.
  • Communication tied to mental health observances in the calendar.

The strategy looks different for every employer and depends on employee demographics and the organizations specific objectives, but the overarching objective is to ensure that every employee knows that resources are available when they’re needed.

An employee mental health communication example

PartnerComm was invited to design a mental health communication campaign for the employees of a professional sports league. We tied the campaign to Mental Health Awareness Month and created a series of 4 powerful graphic emails featuring bright colors and simple language. The emails promoted all of the solutions available to support employees’ emotional, physical and financial wellbeing. We also created 3 interactive PDFs that included a calendar of events, crossword puzzle, and maze. The interactive elements helped tell the story and engage employees. The average open rate across the 4 emails was 67.5% and we saw a 190% increase in Employee Assistance Program (EAP) usage during the month of the campaign.

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