Mental Health

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

Why You Need to Talk About Mental Health in the Workplace and How Technology Is Changing the Way It's Treated
Image credit: Shutterstock

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.

Related: Reality Check: You Need to Care About More Than Your Business

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.

Related: Stress, Anxiety, Loneliness: How This Entrepreneur Lost Himself and Bounced Back Stronger

“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.”   

Cat Clifford, Andy Sekel, Terrence Cummings, Cheryl Swirnow and Jordan Goldberg (L to R).
Image credit: Liz Clayman | Talkspace

In addition to providing mental health coverage for employees because it makes them more productive, it’s also a way to keep top talent happy. “At the end of the day, it’s a retention tool. These benefits become important because if they are not offering them, and competitors are, they might lose out on some key talent,” says Jordan Goldberg, the CEO and co-founder of stickK, a New York City-based startup that gets people to publicly sign a ‘Commitment Contract’ with financial incentives to incentivize them to change their behaviors.

Related: Great Entrepreneur, Lousy Lover?

The three founders were speaking at a recent panel on the future of work benefits at the Talkspace Future of Therapy Conference in New York City. (I moderated the panel.) Talkspace is a New York City-based startup that provides therapy services via text and chat.

Watch this video to hear more about the evolution of workplace benefits. A wee note, this is a longer video (36 minutes!) than most of the videos we post, so get comfy.

Edition: October 2016

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