Why You Need to Talk About Mental Health in the Workplace and How Technology Is Changing the Way It’s Treated

Employers don’t want to think about it. Employees don’t want to talk about it. But this invisible hand is directly affecting how productive your team is. And for business owners, that’s directly affecting your bottom line.

That invisible hand is mental health.

An employee who is battling chronic mental health issues such as depression or situational issues such as work stress is going to be distracted. With the help of a new wave of technology-enabled healthcare companies, employers are starting to understand just how important it is that workers get access to care for both their teeth and minds.

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Third-party healthcare technology companies give employees a private forum to talk about their mental health concerns. Those third-party companies are alerting businesses to the prevalence of mental health issues in their workforce, in some cases for the first time.

“We can bring data that says X percent of your population actually says they have issues with depression, and that surprises a lot of people,” says Terrence Cummings, the director of business development at Stride Health, a San Francisco-based tech startup that helps independent workers of the gig economy get the health care coverage they need. “There has been a more important emphasis placed upon [mental health care] just generally where there might not have even been before because the problem wasn’t known. It just wasn’t surfaced.”

Cheryl Swirnow, the CEO and co-founder of New York City-based Sherpaa, a nationwide online physician practice for large employers, says that her company has been fielding an increasing number of questions about mental health.

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“When an employee first logs into our site, they tell us they are sick, they are hurt, they need a prescription refill, etc., and one of them is, ‘I have a mental health concern,’ and that is our fastest growing bucket right now,” she says. “We are seeing employers getting that information, understanding that their population — while they might be ‘young and healthy’ (air quotes) — mental health might is a huge portion of what that is and they try to de-stigmatize that and provide access.”

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