Gyre Renwick, COO at Modern health.
After the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, I had a heartbreaking conversation with my 10-year-old son: He asked if he should go get his younger sister or stay in his class if a shooting happened. Since this is the environment in which our children grow up, the mental health toll should not be surprising; but as a father and human it is a devastating reality to face.
According to the World Health Organisationone in seven 10 to 19 year olds worldwide experiences a mental disorder, and in the US, 13% of adolescents reported having a major depressive episode in 2019 — a 60% increase from 2007, according to in-depth reporting in the New York Times (paywall).
Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2009, represents about 30% of the total world population – and the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2025 they will make up about 27% of the workforce. We must now listen to what they want, and we cannot assume that their needs are the same as those of previous generations.
Mental health care is important.
Gen-Z and their younger counterparts grew up with a myriad of problems, so it’s no surprise that mental health care is of primary importance to them. U.S Research with Forrester Consulting found that 86% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they are more likely to stay with a company that provides them with quality resources to take care of their mental health. The survey also found that 41% of 18- to 29-year-olds believe employers will be required by law to offer mental health benefits over the next five years.
With the combination of the increasing number of mental health problems and the increasing demand for support, it is safe to say that we will soon be dealing with an even more clinically acute population entering the labor market, with higher expectations, but in many cases is there is no infrastructure set up to actually support them.
Insurance companies need to change.
One of the problems contributing to the provider shortage is a lack of support from insurance companies, as many do not have strong systems to build out provider networks. The average insurance company reimburses therapists only about $30 to $40 per session, and providers can get more than four times as much if they go private.
In addition, insurance companies burden clinicians with extensive record-keeping requirements, and it often takes three to four months to process a claim. This one discourages providers from accepting insurance because they get a significantly higher and more consistent salary if they don’t. With the average cost of psychotherapy in the US, ranging from $100 to $200 per session, being forced to pay out of pocket without insurance is prohibitive for most people.
Providing fair compensation for health care providers would allow more therapists to treat patients through insurance, and it could encourage more people to enter the profession in the first place.
Expanding networks with different care modalities.
Mental health care means therapy for most people. While it is certainly the traditional approach to improving mental health, coaching can be a more affordable alternative, especially for people whose symptoms do not require clinical-level care. Certified coaches trained in evidence-based approaches to mental health can help close the gap for employers who want to support their employees but are hampered by insurance benefit shortfalls. In our peer-reviewed study, 58% of those who entered care with symptoms of depression experienced clinical recovery after at least one session with a certified coach. Leaders must be open to other clinically validated care approaches if we are to address the growing mental health crisis seeping into our workforce.
If providing a personalized mental health platform for employees is too expensive, leaders may want to consider turning to trusted sources to find qualified coaches. Look for certification programs that require coaches to complete a minimum of 60 hours of approved training and record more than 100 hours of coaching for certification. With this type of robust training, coaches can provide a highly effective alternative to therapy for those with mild to moderate mental health needs.
Create a culture focused on well-being in the workplace.
If leaders cannot afford to provide their employees with mental health benefits, consider training managers to create a psychologically safe environment. The first step is to teach leaders how to watch for signs of toxicity in the workplace. Toxic workplace cultures are characterized by behaviors that we generally view as unproductive and harmful in our relationships – bullying, abusive leadership, threats, intimidation and humiliation are just a few examples.
Once aware of the signals, leaders must be empowered to directly address stigma through vulnerability and radical acceptance. Teach managers to confidently and naturally integrate mental health into conversations with their teams, whether that’s sharing their own issues or adding a visible therapy appointment to their calendar.
It’s also important to find ways to empower employees by providing flexible work schedules and mental health days. Providing that foundation of support will encourage employees to be candid with their managers and HR teams.
Workplace culture conversations should be regular, not just when the problem becomes critical. By regularly talking about stress management, boundaries and mental health in company meetings, email communications and chat platforms, leaders will encourage employees to be proactive about their own well-being.
The conversation with my son about what to do during a school shooting is a reflection of the mentally fragile environment we live in today. Our children face more trauma and stress than any of us have ever experienced, which is why it is our job, as parents and leaders, to provide the next generation with quality and accessible mental health care. Because when they enter the job market, they will have more needs and higher expectations – and given the world they grow up in, who can blame them?