Employees who do not have access to mental health support via their employers’ insurances, must navigate the NHS system, which means getting a GP referral and then waiting for availability of mental health support services, waiting lists of 18 weeks are not unusual. This can obviously cause an additional level of stress for the individual, meaning their condition could escalate as well as a likely longer spell of absence from work. Not a successful outcome for the individual or the employer.

Crucial to the successful treatment of mental health issues is timeliness – getting access to the right support and quickly are both very important.

Early intervention

Early intervention is key in supporting employees with mental health conditions. For employers this means taking two actions: selecting group risk, health insurance products or Employee Assistance Programmes that offer third-party support services; and secondly, communicating their availability to their staff. Too often people are not aware of these services, or they’re not fully understood and are therefore under-utilised.

Our patient data records strongly support the case for employer-sponsored mental health provision for employees, as this type of third-party support means that employees can access help quickly but also over the long term: the figures collated over the last five years show a huge improvement across all mental health conditions where employees have been provided with early intervention support from nurses and specialist third-parties.

Based on two widely-used mental health screening tools (PHQ9 and GAD7**), we monitored changes in patients, and found that:

PHQ9 screening for mental health conditions

For example, PHQ9 scores are recorded on a points basis: 0-4 is considered as ‘no depression present’; 5-9 ‘mild depression present’; up to 20-27 as ‘severe depression’. Patients are assessed upon referral and also after a period of treatment. Because there are no delays in being referred to this type of support, therapies, counselling and other treatments can be provided quickly before the condition escalates, enabling a faster recovery.

Assessment important

Whilst counselling is often available via services such as Employee Assistance Programmes, it is important to recognise that counselling may not always be the most appropriate approach. Clinical assessment of the needs of each employee is an important step and ensures that they receive the most appropriate form of therapy. This may indeed be counselling, but other therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) may be assessed as more beneficial. Such therapies can be arranged within a matter of days.

Long-term support

Employers also need to understand that mental health problems are not always black and white in the way that physical ailments may be: an employee who has suffered from severe mental health problems may be sufficiently recovered to return to work but if they do not have ongoing support the conditions could easily recur. Specialist services can be very beneficial for employees until the individual feels they no longer require them, even after returning to work.

Similarly, employees who do not have a fully developed condition but are feeling overwhelmed or under stress can benefit from a personal support  as it may prevent a condition worsening and thus reduce the length of suffering and prevent claims on insurances at a later date.

Nipping existing conditions in the bud is crucial to the success of treating mental health issues, as is prevention before an employee develops a more serious disorder. It has been widely acknowledged that the NHS has significant shortcomings in the timely treatment of mental health conditions, and so more employees will be turning to their employer for help in ensuring a return to productivity and wellbeing.

Now the evidence for early intervention is there in hard and fast statistics, this must surely help HR departments put the case for properly funding mental health support in the workplace?

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