In January 2017, Business Group on Health held its first Employers’ Summit on Mental Health and Emotional Well-being. Leading up to the gathering, the Business Group made the following statement: “the time is now for employers to make mental health and emotional well-being a priority for employees and their dependents.” Spurred on by the opioid epidemic, better evidence on what works and younger generations’ willingness to talk openly about their mental health experiences, the Business Group and many of its employer members pushed the health care industry to better care for the whole person—both physical and mental.
Employers and their vendor partners who had already laid the groundwork for addressing mental health across their health care strategy were best able to respond to the incredible stresses thrust upon millions of employees and families in 2020 and beyond.
Five years later, the Business Group continues to lead in driving improvements in mental health. Just last year, the Business Group held another Mental Health Summit with 4 times as many attendees as in 2017. The Summit addressed some of the thorniest issues related to mental health, including increasing access to pediatric mental health supports, substance use disorder (which has claimed the lives of over 100,000 Americans in the last 12 months), improving culturally competent care, and suicide prevention. Business Group members can download key insights from the Summit.
Most Business Group employer members have employees outside the U.S., and mental health supports internationally present an additional challenge and opportunity. A workgroup of 15 key global employer leaders convened several times over the course of the spring of 2021 to strategize on what’s needed to expand access to mental health care for employees, regardless of where they are. From these discussions came 6 Key Considerations When Assessing Global Capacity of Mental Health Providers, one of many resources made available to Business Group employers leading up to World Mental Health Day.
This past year was also the first that the Business Group included a mental health distinction in our Best Employers: Excellence in Health & Well-being award, pushing employers to continue to thoughtfully approach mental health straight on – and receive appropriate recognition for their successes. Our podcast included episodes with the president of the American Psychological Association on Ways Employers Can Support Mental Health, Overcoming the “Fear of Normal” during the pandemic, the Burnout Epidemic, and how Workplaces Create Equality, Inclusion and Belonging for LGBTQ+ Employees. (To listen to these episodes, like and subscribe, or listen wherever you get your podcasts.)
As we head into 2022 and look to the Future of Workforce Well-being, you’ll soon see an update to the Business Group’s essential dimensions of holistic well-being. First published in 2015, the Business Group’s extensive research on “five factors that contribute to well-being” led the conversation in the need to move from “wellness” to “well-being” strategies to truly promote employee health, productivity and flourishing for employees in their lives. Since then, our understanding of what’s needed to succeed in promoting holistic well-being has evolved and expanded; keep an eye out for more in the near future.
At this point, it’s almost cliché to talk about silver linings to the global pandemic in the face of so much suffering, but the increased focus on mental health certainly qualifies. Clearly, the time is now to go all-in on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of your workforce, just as it was in 2017 and will be going forward.