Only one in 10 employees made use of mental health counseling services during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study conducted by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of Allianz Partners.
One-third of employees said they felt more comfortable talking about mental health over the past 12 months than ever before, while six in 10 believed that people will be more comfortable talking about their mental health in the future. However, the low number of employees accessing counseling demonstrated a disconnect in comfort levels between talking about mental health and actively seeking support services, Allianz Partners said.
The study was conducted among local and ex-pat employees in the UK, Germany, Canada, UAE and Singapore with the intent to measure the impact of COVID-19 on respondents’ mental health and help employees understand how best to support the mental health of their employees.
The study highlighted the importance of employers investing in mental health support and services to ensure a sustainable and productive workforce, since many employees are still dealing with the mental health challenges of the pandemic, Allianz said. Depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity, according to the report. Providing mental health support, therefore, can improve not only employees’ quality of life, but companies’ productivity.
“While the health insurance industry has always recognized the importance of mental health as well as physical health, in the wider public domain it felt, to some degree, like the silent elephant in the room that everyone knew was there but people were sometimes uncomfortable talking about,” said Paula Covey, chief marketing officer for health at Allianz Partners. “Our long-term goal is to make talking about mental health as comfortable as talking about a sprained wrist. We want to encourage dialogue and help people to understand that mental health challenges are normal, sometimes frequent, and help them understand when and how to make use of support services.”
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Covey said that the report showed that awareness of mental health had increased, and said it was “encouraging” that more people were comfortable talking about it.
“However, not all employees feel supported, and there’s still a very low uptake of some mental health services like employee assistance programs and counseling,” she said. “I think there’s a real opportunity here for employers to build on their mental health support programs and make some significant strides forward.”
The report found that while employers have increased mental health services and support for their employees over the past few years, only two in five employees felt that the resources provided by their employer were sufficient to support their mental health. Providing a variety of services, both in-person and digitally, is important, as is offering a combination of HR-sponsored activities such as wellness talks, Allianz Partners said.
Of the mental health services provided by employers, the top five most valued by employees were information, digital team get-togethers, counseling services, extra time off and classes, the study found.