Mental & Behavioral Health

The Emotional and Financial Toll of Mental Health Related Illness on Employees and Employers

Mental Illness

Parents of children with mental health-related issues may find it difficult balancing time between work and a sick child. The difficulty of balancing time with a sick child is especially real since more than four-in-ten adults nationwide working in the private sector do not receive paid sick leave, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Missing work for frequent doctor visits can become a stressful, yet unavoidable task.

According to the National Association of Mental Illness, 62% of sick days can be attributed to mental health. In a report from the CDC looking at children aged 5–17 years, children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and intellectual disability were more likely to have had chronic school absenteeism compared with children who did not have these conditions even after controlling for demographic and selected physical health conditions.  The parents of these children may be absent or not fully present, while worrying about their child at home struggling with their condition.

Parents can do all they can to understand their child’s illness. They can be observant, research extensively, recognize triggers, provide support, and more. However, many children will be put on at least two to three medications to manage their symptoms, and many of those children will experience side effects, or the medication may not be effective at all.  These factors often spillover into the workplace for parents, leading to missed work days and children missing school.


Innovative employers such as EY, Alphabet (Google), Hewlett Packard, and others are starting to provide services that go beyond the typical EAP. Google, for example, recently held a conference run by the associates themselves called the “Mental Health @ Google” Conference. Hundreds of Googlers come together to discuss topics ranging from mental health benefits to anxiety in the workplace. In addition, Google initiated the “blue dot” program, in which employees can become certified as “listeners.” These “certified listeners” have a blue dot on their name tags indicating to fellow Googlers that they are a safe person to speak with if they require a listening ear.  

Samanntha DuBridge, from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is leading a global behavioral health campaign called “For Real Life.”  The campaign encourages employees and their loved ones to reach out to the confidential resources HPE offers to help with personal concerns, such as anxiety, depression, stress, substance use or addiction, trouble sleeping, parenting and relationships, and financial challenges. In addition, the goals of the campaign are to minimize the stigma often associated with behavioral health, and to foster a supportive environment where real life concerns can be openly acknowledged and discussed.

As part of the campaign, people leaders are provided training to help identify when an employee might need support, what HPE resources are available to them and their teams, and how to create an environment where employees feel comfortable asking for help.  

Besides an EAP offering, employees and their families have access to a podcast series featuring interviews with experts about everyday challenges.  Employees can also view Angst, which is a documentary that takes a look at anxiety and what can be done to overcome it.  In the film, professionals discuss anxiety’s physical and social causes and effects, and features candid interviews with individuals, including Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who talk about how it feels and what’s worked for them in dealing with anxiety.  “Angst has been a widely utilized feature of our campaign.  Employees watch the film alone, in small groups, and even with their families.  It has provided employees a way to talk about these issues in more approachable terms,” says Samanntha DuBridge, HPE’s Vice President of Global Benefits and Mobility.  “We’ve heard great stories from our employees on how Angst helped them or their family members start these dialogues and reach for support resources.”

To round out the campaign, employees can attend training webinars on mindfulness and resiliency, finding purpose, gratitude, and how to address financial challenges.  They also are provided with a “Start the Conversation” tip sheet and a listing of national and international public support resources.  Many locations also host in-person training sessions through the EAP, special meditation and yoga classes, and group screenings of Angst.

Mental health significantly affects every workplace. It is the “elephant in the room” that employees are often afraid to discuss, and some employers are not willing to address.  Whether it is related to children, another family member, or their own mental health issue, employees need programs in place in order to help address these challenges, and the stress that often coincides.

With 6.1 million children between the age of 2 -17 being diagnosed with ADHD, 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) having a diagnosis of mental, behavioral, or developmental illness, getting the right medication, the first time, is critical. Pharmacogenomics may be a missing puzzle piece that parents and employers alike are seeking. Companies such as Genomind have made it possible for persons that suffer from mental health related illness to have access to precision prescribed medication through their comprehensive service, Genomind Professional PGx®. This simple cheek swab informs the patient’s doctor, typically within 72 hours, which medications may be considered for their patient based on their own genetic makeup. And each test comes with a free clinical consultation from one of Genomind’s industry leading Medical Science Liaisons to walk through the report with the prescribing clinician, which the patient is also welcome to join. This revolutionary new technology is designed to catapult persons with mental health issues to a place of healing that they may not experience in months or years with traditional trial and error prescription medicine practices.  

A recent study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety showed that patients whose clinicians incorporated Genomind’s service to help personalize treatment decisions experienced fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations, along with significant cost savings. Compared to similar patients who did not use pharmacogenomic testing, patients using Genomind’s service demonstrated: 40% fewer emergency room visits, 58% fewer in-patient hospitalizations, and an estimated $1,948 cost reduction over six months post-testing.  

While healthcare cost savings may be significant for self-funded employers, the return on investment is far more than monetary. Once these valued employees feel confident that they have received personalized medication for themselves or a family member, they may be able to return to work without the worry and stress that has plagued them for so long.

Many employers are starting to take action. And it’s time for the others to follow suit. With nearly 20% of employee populations suffering from mental illness in a given year, employers must come up with viable solutions.

Solutions such as learning more about what other employers are successfully implementing, or researching revolutionary pharmacogenomic advancements, are a great place to start.  Attending educational webinars, such as the session being hosted by Global Healthcare Resources entitled Mental & Behavioral Health Virtual Summit on June 4, 2019, may also be a great resource. This Summit will feature discussions with EY, Hewlett Packard, Genomind, Nike, and others on solutions they have implemented in an effort to tackle the mental health crisis in the workplace. Additionally, keynote and renown speaker, Pete Thomas, winner of NBC’s Biggest Loser, will talk about his journey to tackle his mental health demons, which he largely credits for keeping the weight off. The Summit will also address addiction and mental health related issues for children.

The Mental & Behavioral Health Virtual Summit on June 4, 2019, will bring industry leading experts, employers, and experienced partners together to help address this incredibly important topic, and provide solutions that employers can implement right away. Please join us!

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