Mental Health Awareness Month: It's a family affair

Chief commercial officer at Brightline explains the benefits of supporting your employees’ children

Mental Health Awareness Month: It's a family affair

Over the past two years, employees have needed support more than ever.

They’ve had to work through fear of being infected with the coronavirus, concern for the safety of their loved ones and anxiety over the uncertainty of it all. Providing mental health resources to employees has become an employer’s responsibility since the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it’s only the first step. If you want to truly support your workers’ holistic wellbeing, you must include their children in your coverage. 

Haleigh Tebben can attest. She’s the chief commercial officer at Brightline, a Palo Alto, CA-based mental health care provider. Tebben recently attended a conference of HR leaders featuring the latest in cutting-edge benefits and not surprisingly, mental health was the talk of the town.

“The talent war is intense and it’s increasingly difficult to retain employees,” Tebben told HRD. “With COVID-19 blurring the line between work and home, HR leaders are asking how they can extend what they’re already doing for employees to the entire family unit. There’s a huge influx of interest from employers.”

Read more: More than half of employees haven’t used mental health benefits

One in five children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The pandemic has only intensified the issue. In an October 2020 survey from JED and Fluent Research, six in 10 parents said their child had experienced emotional or mental health challenges in the past month. Meanwhile, one-third reported that their child’s mental health had declined during the pandemic. 

“The sad thing is 80% of these kids aren’t getting the support they need,” Tebben says. “There are issues with access, affordability, stigma, inconsistent quality and lack of visibility. It’s a huge issue plaguing the country.”

Parents of children struggling with mental health face several byproducts which can impact their performance at work and just daily life. According to Brightline data, if your child has a mental health issue, you’re twice as likely to have one yourself. Tebben says there’s also a 50% greater chance of divorce if your child has a mental health issue. During the pandemic, 48% of parents considered getting help or had gotten help for their children. However, 21% either left or considered leaving their job because of their child’s behavioral health condition.

That’s a wake-up call for employers during the Great Resignation, in which companies across the United States are experiencing historic turnover. More than 60 million Americans have quit their jobs over the past year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prompted by the pandemic to re-evaluate their priorities in life, workers have been leaving their positions for greener pastures, demanding higher salaries, better working conditions, improved work-life balance and more opportunities to advance their career. 

To combat the nationwide staffing shortage and compete for talent, employers are having to increase their compensation and benefits packages beyond the traditional healthcare, dental, vision and 401(k) offers. Mental health benefits, resources and support for not only themselves, but also their families, remain in high demand by job seekers.

“The feedback across the board indicates that it’s not a year of take away – it’s a year of how do we add support to get employees back to the office,” Tebben says. “On average, parents might spend 5 hours a day trying to navigate getting behavioral health support for their child. From an employer’s perspective, that’s significantly impacting your employees, making them either not able to show up or unable to perform effectively during the day.”

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