Employee Wellness

How Calm Health Helps Address Access to Mental Health Support

Bridging the gap between mental and physical health care, Calm Health guides employees to the right level of support and helps keep them engaged in their mental health.

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The Calm Team

6 min read

Jane, a 48-year-old nurse, is feeling overwhelmed. Her 18-year-old daughter Holly, who’s starting college on a division 1 tennis scholarship, has just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Holly’s feeling down and anxious about how diabetes will affect her ability to compete and also have a normal college experience. Jane suspects her daughter needs mental health support but knows Holly will resist seeing a therapist, if they can even find one who’s affordable. Jane’s starting to feel depleted; not only is work exhausting, but she’s also caring for her aging dad at home. She doesn’t think to consult the employee assistance program (EAP) available to her and her family. Jane’s supervisor can see she’s distracted and easily frustrated, which isn’t her typical behavior.

Disconnected care and other barriers to mental health support

Jane’s story isn’t unusual, but it illustrates a few remarkable things about our country’s approach to care:

  • Physical and mental health are deeply intertwined but traditionally treated separately. In most cases, people with chronic conditions are left on their own to determine the type of mental health support they need and to find it. That’s a problem considering that chronic conditions often lead to anxiety and depression. It’s estimated that 10% to 15% of people with diabetes are also depressed, for example, and 25% of cancer patients also experience depression. On the flipside, unmanaged stress like Jane’s can escalate to serious physical health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disorders.
  • Not only is there a shortage of mental health providers, with nearly half (47%) of the U.S. population living in a mental health workforce shortage area as of 2022, but many therapists and online therapy platforms don’t accept insurance, leaving it to the patient to pursue any form of reimbursement available.
  • Finding a therapist can be challenging. In a 2020 NAMI survey, 80% of respondents (and 84% of caregivers) said they’re dissatisfied with online navigation tools to find mental health treatment or support, citing out of date and inaccurate information. Data availability and accuracy in navigation are a “major barrier for locating timely and appropriate mental health treatment and supportive services,” according to NAMI.
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs), offered by 98% of large employers to support employees and their families, are poorly utilized. It’s estimated that only about 3.5% of employees take advantage of them when they’re available. Lack of awareness about the EAP, difficulty finding it, misconceptions that they’re for crisis situations only, and stigma are some of the factors keeping people from using their EAP.

Employee mental health continues to trend in the wrong direction

Given these limitations, it’s no surprise that employee mental health is trending in the wrong direction. More than three-quarters (77%) of large employers are seeing a rise in depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns among their workers, according to Business Group on Health, with another 16% expecting to see an increase going forward. 

In response, employers are working to lower cost barriers and offer more mental health support options, BGH said. But these efforts might not deliver the positive results organizations seek unless they address the problems of navigation and engagement, too. Calm Health addresses both.

Calm Health makes it easy to take the first step on the mental health journey

Neither Jane nor Holly is taking the first step to get the mental health support they need.

Focused on her dad and daughter, Jane has put self-care to the back burner. Holly is focused on her diagnosis and college, not on how she’s feeling.   

A brief mental health screening

Imagine Jane now has access to Calm Health through her employee health and benefits plan. Thinking Calm Health might be an avenue for Holly to get support, Jane opens the Calm Health app and is greeted with a warm welcome and an invitation from a friendly narrator to take a brief mental health screening. The narrator tells her that the questions she’ll be asked are from standard mental health screenings [Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7)]. Her answers will help Calm Health recommend the resources, tools and techniques best suited to her needs.

Personalized recommendations promote engagement and utilization of mental health resources

Jane completes the screening in under a minute and the results indicate she might have symptoms of mild anxiety, but she’s asymptomatic for depression. The app also guides her to select “topics” of importance to her and to input her goals. Jane says she wants to manage her stress better and selects “women’s health” and “menopause” as her topics of interest.  

Based on her screening, conditions, topics, and goals, Calm Health develops a personalized plan with recommendations for evidence-based clinical programs she can access in the app. Developed by clinical psychologists with proven subject matter expertise, her recommended programs include Support for Mothers and Caregivers, Thriving Through the Menopause Transition, and Stress Management for Busy Nurses. Calm Health also recommends tools in the app that align to her goals, including: a meditation on Managing Overwhelm and Mindfulness Tools from the U.S. Surgeon General.

Jane had opened the app on behalf of her daughter but in a matter of minutes had been guided to programs that could make a real difference in her daily experience.

Guiding people to the right level of support

Encouraged by Jane to complete the screening, Holly’s results show that she may have symptoms of  moderate anxiety and moderate depression. The narrator shares that she’s not alone and recommends reaching out to a mental health practitioner while exploring Calm’s clinical programs and mindfulness tools. Holly’s presented with a link to the EAP available through her mother’s employer and begins speaking with a therapist. She’s also guided to Calm Health clinical programs, including Type 1 Diabetes and Teen Guide to Taking on Depression, and to a wide range of mindfulness tools in the app. Holly recognizes she needs help and is glad to have helpful resources at her fingertips.

Had either Jane or Holly signaled through the screening that they’re having thoughts of hurting themselves, they would have been directed to crisis support, either the National 988 line or an alternative crisis response configured by Jane’s employer in the Calm Health app.

Keeping people engaged in their mental health

Jane and Holly continue to listen to the recommended clinical programs in Calm Health that are specifically developed for the conditions, life stages, and experiences they’re facing. At the same time, they’re drawn to explore the entire library of clinical programs and mindfulness content in the app.

As a result, Jane has developed a habit of listening to short sessions on building resilience during breaks at work, and her supervisor can see that Jane is acting more like herself. Holly has adopted a daily stretching practice through the Daily Move with Mel Mah and falls asleep to a Calm Sleep Story nearly every night. 

Jane and Holly are prompted by Calm Health to retake the mental health screening periodically for updated scores, and they continue to try new programs in the app as they become available. Jane has set an additional goal to increase her happiness, and Holly has added building gratitude to her list of goals.

Making a positive impact on workforce mental well-being

Most employees and family members experience challenges at some point, whether a chronic condition like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease; a challenging life stage, such as pregnancy, parenting, or loss; or a demanding vocation or role like teacher, nurse, doctor, active military or veteran. 

Calm Health makes it easy for them to take the first step and to get timely, evidence-based support that matches their needs. It connects them with the organization’s EAP and other mental health resources they might not otherwise find. And Calm Health’s compelling content narrated by friendly and well-known voices helps keep them engaged in their mental health and well-being. Calm Health users can monitor the level of their symptoms using the mental health screening, and Calm Health administrators can get aggregate reporting on how a population is doing over time based on scores. 

As employers grapple with access to mental health for employees and their dependents, they’ll need to find new approaches like Calm Health that can help them overcome all of the barriers to care, not just costs.

For more information on how Calm Health can support the mental health and well-being of your workforce and their families, connect with a Calm specialist today

*The Calm Health screening is not a substitute for care by a physician or other health care provider and is only available to U.S. residents age 18 or older. 

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