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The case for early intervention in employee mental health conditions

Employees are becoming increasingly aware that some employers go that extra mile to build in added-value services such as mental health support, within their employer-sponsored insurance policies (including Group Income Protection, Group Critical Illness and Group Life Assurance). There is clear evidence to show that early intervention, particularly for mental health conditions is crucial, so employers who do not currently offer this type of support should be asking themselves ‘why not?’

Employees are becoming increasingly aware that some employers go that extra mile to build in added-value services such as mental health support, within their employer-sponsored insurance policies (including Group Income Protection, Group Critical Illness and Group Life Assurance). There is clear evidence to show that early intervention, particularly for mental health conditions is crucial, so employers who do not currently offer this type of support should be asking themselves ‘why not?’

Offering added-value services is by no means simply a charitable course of action, but an employer who offers these benefits via a group insurance product, will benefit too. They are likely to see fewer and shorter staff absences, more productive employees and increased staff loyalty which can lead to reduced recruitment, all pointing to a recognition of the key role of employers in looking after the mental wellbeing of their employees.

Absence reduction
When employees are not able to benefit from early intervention, treatment is often delayed whilst waiting for NHS referrals, during which time the mental health condition can escalate, require longer-term treatment, potentially a longer spell of absence from work and a postponement of normal, everyday life.

On the other hand, statistics show that when early intervention is in place, the timescales are much reduced: Figures collated from 400 of RedArc’s patients over a five-year period show that where early clinical assessments are in place, 88 per cent of patients show improvements in their condition after just a four-month period of tailored support and therapy.

Based on the PHQ9 and GAD7 questionnaires commonly used to diagnose and measure the severity of anxiety and depression, of those, 77 per cent of RedArc’s patients improved from Severe Anxiety or Depression to Moderate or less, and 91 per cent improved from Moderate-Severe Anxiety or Depression to Moderate or less.

Treatment types
Whilst early intervention is a key factor in patient recovery, the type of therapy available also has a significant bearing.

Many people traditionally think of counselling as the cure but there are an increasing number of other therapies that can  be more appropriate depending on the circumstances, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and others. It is important that the patient’s needs are clinically assessed in order to understand the relevance of the different therapies to each individual and the severity of their mental health condition at the time.

Coercion
With transparency being encouraged and coerced in various areas in the corporate world, it may not be unreasonable to foresee a world in the not too distant future where organisations are compelled to report on their employee mental health provision. The Stevenson Farmer report (Thriving at Work, The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers, October 2017) shares a vision where employers routinely monitor the mental health of their employees, and transparency and accountability is improved through internal and external reporting.

Whether the catalyst for offering mental health provision is due to employee demand; employer diligence; to limit staff absence; or further in the future due to compulsion; the case is clear cut that early intervention is absolutely critical.

Christine Husbands, Managing Director, RedArc Nurses

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