It’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted people’s mental health. 4 in 10 Americans reported having a mental health issue in 2021, up greatly from 1 in 10 adults in 2019.1 That’s a 300% increase in just 3 years.
So, what does 2022 — and even the future — hold for the state of mental health in the US? According to the CDC, more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.2 And as COVID variants continue to arise, the possibility of a mental health pandemic seems imminent. More workers are struggling with anxiety, depression, family issues, substance use and more, as 47% of adults have reported a decline in their mental health.3
However, there is a way to support employees and their families. Virtual care has proven to positively impact today’s workers. A recent analysis indicates that virtual visits for mental health issues went from nearly 0 before the pandemic to as much as 40% in mid-2020 – while levelling off slightly by the end of 2021.4 A virtual mental health solution as an employee benefit is a great means to support a workforce. Here’s why:
Mental Health America reports that “over half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment, totaling over 27 million adults in the U.S. who are going untreated.”4 The numbers are alarming but not surprising. The average cost for a psychiatry or therapy visit ranges from $100 to more than $200. To receive the best results, a patient must continually visit a doctor over many weeks, months or years.
A virtual mental health solution should be little-to-no cost to an employee and their dependents. It should also have no access barriers, allowing patients to conduct their needed number of visits over any period of time.
Untreated depression is costly for employers – about $44 billion (about $140 per person in the US) is lost in productivity according to the Center for Workplace Mental Health.5 Employers can better support their employees with an effective virtual mental health solution. Not only are employees happier and healthier with easy access to quality care, but virtual mental health improves productivity and decreases monetary losses.
Whether it’s self-stigma or public-stigma, stigmatization is a deterrent for many to seek care. Poor mental health literacy can lead to discrimination in the workplace. 90% of CBS Poll respondents said there is a presence of stigma and discrimination around mental health issues.6
By providing and promoting a virtual mental health solution, an employer can support employees struggling with mental health issues while encouraging productive and educational discussions to improve mental health literacy.
Access to mental health care encompasses expanding doctor or counselor availability, decreasing wait times and removing geographic limitations.
The National Mental Health Council revealed “77% of counties in the United States are experiencing a severe shortage of mental health providers” and it’s expected to worsen post-pandemic.7 With virtual mental health, a provider is always available. Patients don’t need to worry about travel and can take appointments in the comfort of a space of their choosing.
The shortage of mental health providers drives up wait times to get an appointment. In 2021, patients waited 5 to 6 weeks on average to receive care.8 The average wait time for a virtual mental health visit is 3 days so patients receive the mental health support they need faster.
By connecting patients with counselors quickly and conveniently, virtual mental health improves access equity.
To review, here are the benefits of virtual mental health:
There is little-to-no cost for patients and no barriers for the number of visits
Removes stigmatization while improving mental health literacy
Improves access equity with virtual visits
Combats the mental health provider shortage
Connects patients in need with counselors faster than seeing someone in-person.