Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as a “state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Sounds pretty positive to me. But “mental health” still carries a stigma, and talking about how we really feel—and more importantly, admitting when we don’t feel well—remains a taboo. In fact, about two-thirds of those living with a mental illness do not seek help out of fear due to the stigma that is cast.
The good news is, governments and businesses are finally taking steps to help change this perception.
Big names bring awareness—and funding
Bell Canada has been a leader in the conversation about mental health; the company launched its “Let’s Talk” program in 2010 as a way to end this stigma about mental illness, and to create initiatives for new funding for access, care and research. The program’s impact can’t be denied: $86.5 million has been donated to mental health initiatives through the program, and it has helped ensure access to mental health care to over 740,000 people.
The government of Ontario recently dedicated $140 million over the next three years for mental health services, including investments in psychotherapy and supportive housing, in addition to a $3.7 billion investment that was made in 2015. The Ontario Conservative Party also called for a $1.9-billion investment to build a “comprehensive” mental-health system as part of their current platform.
Most recently CAMH, Canada’s largest mental health hospital was given $100 million by an anonymous donor in order to conduct new research.
Mental health issues have finally garnered the attention from big names and with it comes the big funding.
Insurance providers stepping up
Thankfully Canada’s healthcare and insurance providers are also following suit.
Manulife is running five pilot programs this year designed to find new and innovative ways to deliver treatment to its plan members in group benefits. Four of the five pilot programs relate to mental health conditions, specifically:
- Direct access to virtual cognitive behavioural therapy
- In-person and digitally‑delivered therapy to help plan members dealing with mental health issues
- Earlier, specialized and collaborative care to help plan members suffering from major depression
- Pharmacogenetic testing to help speed up plan member treatment
Other players are also joining the field. Digital benefits platform HoneyBee Benefits recently partnered with a startup called Akira that provides access to health care providers, including those specializing in mental health care, through their smartphone app.
A similar service called Inkblot connects individuals with counseling services directly through video conferencing. Programs like these can be extra beneficial to those suffering from mental health issues as they are easy to access at any time, and are confidential.
As insurance providers expand their mental health care coverage options, more and more Canadians will have access to rapid, personalized treatment that can help shorten recovery times and improve their quality of life.
Will companies support employee mental health challenges?
The Huffington Post brought up a very good point in an article saying, “psychological conditions don’t just disappear when employees get to the office.” It’s a profound statement, and something you never think about. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean that it’s not there, but it is certainly palpable, and greatly impacts the quality of work someone can produce—which is why employers and startup founders need to care about mental health.
Offering health and wellness benefits have to extend to one’s mental, emotional, social, financial and physical health. Employees aren’t just a “revenue-generating unit,” like they were labeled in years past. With the amount of stress and growing demands in an average persons’ life, there needs to be a more holistic approach with how we cover mental health.
The next step is for more companies to start embracing mental health support for their staff and employees. I’ll be sharing more thoughts on how startup founders can invest wisely in mental health initiatives for their teams in future blog posts. Stay tuned!
Don’t hesitate to reach out our or chat with Becca, our chatbot, if you have any questions about employee benefit options that support mental health.