From cafeteria makeovers to corporate wellness retreats to staff fitness challenges, more and more employers are seeing the value of a healthy workforce.
Yet when it comes to mental health support, most Canadian organizations are lagging. According to CAMH, half a million Canadians stay home every week because of mental health issues, and two thirds of those sufferers aren’t seeking treatment, says a separate report from the American Journal of Public Health. Despite more attention to workplace health than ever before, a recent global workforce study from the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans found that North Americans are dealing with more mental health and substance abuse issues today than they were two years ago.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that mental health issues are the leading cause of disability in Canada — or that it is costing employers $6.3 billion annually.
Poor workplace mental health is a complex, billion-dollar problem, yet part of the solution for certain issues may be at our fingertips with the advent of virtual mental healthcare. A step up from telemedicine or traditional virtual care for primary care issues, virtual mental healthcare can provide fast, private and secure access to many mental health professionals, 24/7 from anywhere in the world.
Seeking support becomes a lot more enticing when stigma, lack of time, difficulty getting appointments and general inconvenience are no longer barriers.
While adoption of virtual care in Canada is still low — just 9% compared to the 71% demand for it, according to a Medisys internal report — it’s yielding incredible results in other countries. New York’s Westchester Medical Center has seen a 30% reduction in missed patient appointments since offering tele-psychiatry, according to a report by Philips, “How Telehealth Can Get Healthcare to More People”, and an Irish digital therapy program has empowered six times more users to receive mental health care since combining virtual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with in-person therapy.
Fortunately, robust digital health platforms are now available in Canada, which means organizations have the power to put mental health support in the palms of employees’ hands.