One in five Americans experience a mental health disorder in any given year — which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite this prevalence, mental health support and services continue to struggle to meet the demand. This is especially true in rural areas, according to a recent white paper developed by the Health Action Council (HAC) and UnitedHealthcare.
Key findings show there is a need for expanded access to mental health services for employees across the U.S., especially in those rural areas where mental health care needs are not met due to a lack of adequate services. The 16% higher rate of emergency room visits among members with a mental health and substance abuse (MHSA) diagnosis living in rural areas may indicate that they are visiting the ER for mental health services, without another option to turn to.
Understanding the issues that exist when it comes to access to mental health services may help employers be more proactive about highlighting resources and support. Prioritizing behavioral health not only helps support your employees but may also improve their overall health and well-being, as mental health issues may complicate other medical conditions.
Here are a few tips on how you may help support the behavioral health needs of your employees:
- Evaluate your current benefit plan designs
Behavioral health resources may be overlooked when considering your health insurance offerings, but it’s important to prioritize them. Programs may range from caring for mental health behaviors to treatment for substance abuse. Check to see what you are offering your employees to ensure they have adequate support.
- Institute an exercise, stretch or meditation program
While lifestyle changes may not treat a mental health disorder completely, they may have a positive effect on the ability to help manage certain symptoms. Encouraging your employees to exercise, stretch or meditate — and providing the support needed — may help improve their well-being and mental health.
- Promote virtual care to improve access to treatment
Those in rural populations have a disproportionate percentage of mental health and substance abuse diagnoses, as a number of factors may create barriers to care. This includes societal stigma, acceptance to care and a shortage of mental health care professionals. By improving educational communication in these areas, this population may better understand the types of programs available.
Virtual care, for example, may be a more convenient and accessible option. If you offer UnitedHealthcare insurance, employees may have access to many virtual behavioral health solutions, like:
- Sanvello, an emotional support mobile app to help you cope with stress, anxiety and depression.
- Talkspace, online and mobile therapy that connects you with counselors or therapists.
- Behavioral health virtual care through myuhc.com, which can help connect you to a mental health professional that fits your needs.
- Recovery Record, an app that may help those overcoming an eating disorder with the help of a treatment team.
With these tips, you may be able to better reach and help your employees who may be at greater risk of mental health issues and yet, least likely to take action on their own.
To learn more about the findings from the Health Action Council and UnitedHealthcare, click here.