Top 4 Mistakes When Designing Mental Health Benefits Strategies

Mental health conditions are on the rise in every workplace. According to the 2024 Business Group on Health’s annual survey, 77% of large employers report an increase in mental health needs across their workforce. Employers are working hard to improve employee health while also balancing a need to reduce costs and disability claims. 

Many employees are not engaging or improving with current benefits like EAPs and health plans. As employees ask for help with their mental health, benefits leaders must reexamine the programs they offer.

Goodpath has helped many employers improve their mental health benefits strategy. Here, we share the top 4 mistakes we see employers make when designing their mental health benefits strategy and tips on how to avoid them:

1. Assuming the employees most vocal about mental health represent the full population

Only 5% of people dealing with mental health issues actively say they want talk therapy. In fact, 75% of employees who struggle with mental health do not seek care. This “Missing Majority” needs to be introduced to mental health care through other pathways. They might not know they have mental health or emotional concerns, or they're more focused on a comorbid physical condition, like back pain or digestive problems. 

If these employees are not getting mental health care, they’re not getting better. In the long term, this will show up as continued health claims and even disability. Employers must offer programs that offer alternative pathways to access mental health care. 

2. Implementing point solutions that don’t address the mental health issues of those seeking care for physical factors.

There are three primary problems with mental health point solutions.

First, 75% of those dealing with mental health issues will only seek care if they have a physical health issue, like back pain. Offering these employees mental health support while they are in treatment for physical issues is crucial to addressing mental health concerns across all employees. Point solutions don’t do this. 

Second, solutions that offer programs for mindfulness, meditation, and self-care are typically self-directed. While they encourage behaviors like exercise and offer strategies for things like resilience and relaxation, these solutions lack engagement with a health care provider. This limits how much care users can access.

Finally, mental and physical health are tied together. Employees are more open to seeking and using mental health help if the benefit offers other conditions as well. There may be highly pressing concerns before the employee seeks mental health care, like reducing the severity of their stomach pain.

3. Relying only on EAPs and health plan solutions

Only having options for mental health treatment through EAPs and health plans often falls short for employees. 

EAPs and health plan solutions often do not provide the mental health support they promise. While health plans may cover things like talk therapy or counseling, access remains a huge challenge for employees. There is a national shortage of mental health providers, with 60% of psychologists not taking new patients

Patients grow frustrated searching for a therapist who takes their insurance, has openings, and answers their request. These employees may stop seeking help altogether.

Additionally, talk therapy is not the right first step for everyone. Other employees may benefit from treatments, like mind-body techniques and self-guided CBT. Or, their anxiety may be due to a different core need that must be addressed at the same time, like insomnia or digestive issues.

4. Looking only at mental health claims data to understand the impact of mental health on medical costs

Mental health claims are just one way to look at costs. Only 54% of people with a mental health issue seek care. That presents a challenge for understanding costs, as mental health issues are linked to physical conditions. For example, depression has been linked to up to 29 physical conditions. Having a mental health issue will also exacerbate chronic condition spending. 

Mental health issues also have a massive impact on disability, as a top-5 driver of both short-term and long-term disability claims. Finding a solution that addresses mental health issues for people seeking treatment for physical conditions is key to reducing overall spend.

Rethinking your mental health benefits strategy 

Implementing a mental health solution that meets the needs of all employees is critical for supporting your workforce and fostering a healthy organization. By prioritizing whole-person mental health support, organizations can promote overall health, balance, well-being, and employee satisfaction. Providing accessible resources and proactive initiatives can help address the diverse mental health needs of employees.

Goodpath: Whole-Person Mental Health

Goodpath’s whole-person care is approachable and flexible for employees. It treats the primary condition (like anxiety, depression, or stress) and the contributing factors (like poor diet or sleep) to improve employee health quickly and long-term.

Additionally, for members who join for a physical health condition (like back pain or IBS), we evaluate and treat anxiety and depression at the same time as their primary conditions. This leads to physical health members improving their mental health symptoms by 45%.

Let us know if you’d like to learn more about how Goodpath’s whole-person care meets more of the mental health need.