5 Ways to Get Employees to Utilize Employer-Sponsored Mental Health Programs

May 23, 2023

First Stop Health

The most effective mental health resources for any workforce are those that fully engage employees. Understanding what drives employees to utilize mental health resources — as well as what prevents them from accessing them — is foundational to select the right benefits. A recent study found that since the start of 2022, “65% of employers have seen an increase in accommodation and leave requests related to mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”1 

Here are a few things to consider when implementing a mental health program that will make a difference for employees: 

Awareness: Many employees aren’t aware of company-sponsored benefits that may help with mental health. EAPs are notoriously underutilized for that reason and in many cases, employees don’t know that their employer-sponsored health insurance plan may cover mental health treatment. Employers should look for mental health resources that feature strong communications that will fully engage and inform employees about the resources available to them. Ask virtual care providers if they organize, implement and fund employee awareness materials. 

Cost: Cost is a significant factor to consider for mental health benefits. While some employees may not mind paying a copay to access therapy or other care, a majority of employees are more likely to access benefits when they are available at little or no cost to them. A study found that half of American adults delayed getting care due to cost.2 Employers should specifically examine employees’ share of costs before committing to a mental health resource for their workforce. If the cost prevents employees from using it, then the value it brings to the organization may not be worth the investment.  

Access: There are, on average, 20 mental healthcare providers for every 100,000 people, and 3 out of 4 counties report a “severe psychiatrist shortage.”3,4 Finding a counselor with availability who lives nearby can be an enormous challenge — especially now that many employers are managing remote workforces who live in various regions nationwide. Employers should look for solutions that can connect employees to licensed counselors no matter where they live within just a few days. Optimal solutions will also allow employees to select a counselor they feel most comfortable talking to and translation capabilities if needed. 

Confidentiality: Overcoming stigma — despite the increased social awareness of mental health — is one of the biggest hurdles employers must address when connecting employees with mental health care. Guaranteeing employee confidentiality while using mental health resources and ensuring employees feel comfortable participating in activities that may be more public in nature (e.g. yoga classes, company wellness initiatives), is crucial to obtaining true value from employer-sponsored mental health benefits.  Virtual mental health solutions specifically address confidentiality and worries about stigma by allowing individuals to access care without leaving their homes. Drafting internal policies and training managers to handle mental health information appropriately will foster a culture of respect for mental health issues and ensure that any employee disclosures will be treated sensitively and with discretion. For more public-facing wellness initiatives, employers should consider benefit solutions that offer educational and employee communication components at no extra cost.  

Culturally Competent: 53% of employees cite cultural barriers that prevent them from fully engaging in company-sponsored wellness activities including inconvenience and their employers’ lack of support for their participation.5 Hearing directly from company leadership that it is not only okay but strongly encouraged for them to engage in wellness activities can make an enormous difference. Employers should look for wellness benefit providers that understand employee hesitancy when using these kinds of benefits and how to scale company-wide education and awareness programs to promote participation. 

First Stop Health (FSH) Virtual Care Solutions   

FSH Virtual Primary Care, Virtual Urgent Care (Telemedicine) and Virtual Mental Health solutions deliver patient-first care to members where and when they need it. Virtual Primary Care consists of preventive and chronic care to help coordinate and manage the many touchpoints of members’ healthcare journeys. With Virtual Urgent Care (included with Virtual Primary Care), members have access to 24/7 urgent care for episodic health concerns. Virtual Mental Health provides counseling to members, and in conjunction with Virtual Primary Care guidance and medication management, can lead to better whole-person health. 



  1. https://www.littler.com/files/2023_littler_employer_survey_report.pdf 
  2. https://www.kff.org/health-costs/issue-brief/americans-challenges-with-health-care-costs/ 
  3. https://www.wellandgood.com/telemental-health-during-covid-19/ 
  4. https://www.merritthawkins.com/uploadedFiles/MerrittHawkins/Content/News_and_Insights/Thought_Leadership/mhawhitepaperpsychiatry2018.pdf 
  5. https://hbr.org/2016/10/why-people-do-and-dont-participate-in-wellness-programs 

Originally published May 23, 2023 3:34:47 PM.