Mental Health Matters: Employees Expect More from Their Health Benefits 

by Joe Greenberg

Employee expectations have drastically shifted over the past few years. 

Employees now have baseline expectations for the health insurance benefits their employers offer. Their desires have evolved beyond traditional health insurance benefits for emergencies, outpatient or inpatient coverage to specific needs that support their mental health since COVID-19 exacerbated mental health conditions. 

Across the nation, symptoms of anxiety and depression significantly increased in adults between 2019 and 2021. The latest report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says 40.8% of adults in Arizona have symptoms of anxiety or depression. 

The numbers indicate that employees can experience poor mental health at any time — especially during times of stress or worries about family finances, children’s safety and world events. Poor mental health comes in many forms and levels of severity; it is not always evident how much an employee is impacted. They may be unwilling or fearful to ask for help in the workplace, so it is important to recognize the potential signs. 

Learn to Identify Warning Signs

These can include personality changes, especially withdrawal or obsessive thoughts; anxiety and apathy; changes in eating or sleeping; overuse of alcohol or use of drugs; and extreme highs and lows that include anger, irritability or emotional dysregulation.

Mental Health First Aid

Get trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). Mental Health First Aid provides the tools to assist and give initial support to someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use concern or crisis.

Mental Health First Aid provides training in English and Spanish for adults, youth, teens, first responders, employees, veterans, older adults and many other groups. In fact, Blue Cross® Blue Shield® of Arizona offers training to Arizona businesses and their employees. To date, BCBSAZ has trained participants from more than 50 Arizona employers and 800 of its own employees. More information on mental health first aid is available here.

Addressing the Need Through Coverage 

In the most recent State of Workforce Mental Health report, 84% of those surveyed said “robust and comprehensive” mental health benefits were an important factor when considering a new job. And employers are listening. 

Employers offering mental health coverage in 2022 hit a new high since the pandemic. We saw a sharp rise in benefits such as mental health coverage, telemedicine and telehealth, according to Society for Human Resource Management’s latest Employee Benefits Survey, one of the longest-running annual reports exploring employee benefits trends in the U.S. 

Mental health offerings are not only what employees want, they are what many need. Employers have an opportunity to positively impact the mental health crisis and ensure their team is their best selves at work and home.

Joe Greenberg is vice president of commercial and specialty business for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. 

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