Mental health support from employers is the priority for employees

Out of the four key pillars of wellbeing (mental, financial, physical and social), mental wellbeing is the number one priority that employees believe their employer should be responsible for supporting, with half (49%) of employees choosing this over the other areas of wellbeing, shows research from GRiD, the group risk industry body.

And when asked about which area of wellbeing the individual employee would most like to have support for, mental wellbeing was again the top priority, with a third (34%) choosing this over the other areas.

Whilst the research shows a clear desire for mental health support over and above other areas of wellbeing, a significant number of employees also want their employer to provide financial (29%), physical (22%) and social (16%) wellbeing support too. Of course, all of these areas affect mental health, so help in any of these areas will have a knock-on effect of supporting mental wellbeing too.

For many, the first port of call for mental health support will be the NHS, but with the pressures the NHS faces, employees are likely to have to wait a long time to get the help they need. When people have mental health challenges it’s imperative that they get help as quickly as possible to improve outcomes.

Employees are clearly looking to their employer for support, and although supporting mental health is rising to the top of the corporate agenda, many employers may be at a loss as to how to go about doing this, or feel they need to set aside a huge fund. However, there is a wealth of support at their fingertips within group risk benefits (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness), and these frequently come with embedded support, including fast-track access to professional mental health support, at no extra cost.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, says: “Accessing mental health support independently is a minefield given the practical difficulties people face in gaining access to the right kind of help for them, and funding support privately can be prohibitively expensive. The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental Health for All’ and calls for greater investment, but that investment may not have to be as significant as many employers think.

“Employers would do well to look at the mental health support that’s included within their group risk purchase (such as access to an Employee Assistance Programme, fast access to talking therapies, apps for managing mental health and more). Accessing the mental health support that’s fully funded by group risk providers, not only saves time and cost, but most importantly, lives.”

Mental ill health was the second main cause of claim under group income protection policies in 2019, clearly demonstrating the value that many employers and employees receive for mental health from group risk.

Mental health issues are as varied as physical conditions. Whilst each condition can differ in severity from person to person, the acuteness of the illness depends on a number of factors and comes in many shapes and forms, from mild anxiety to severe psychotic episodes. As such, various types of support may be required and this can include providing access to therapy, treatment and counselling.

Employers who make good use of group risk embedded mental health support can meet their employees’ expectations and help them on their journey back to good mental health.