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How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

May is Mental Health Month. Help employees live their healthiest lives with an HSA that covers mental health expenses.

Deborah, a 45-year-old mother of teenage twins and the daughter of an ailing, elderly mother, is having difficulty concentrating at work. In fact, her demeanor, which is usually bright and cheerful, has taken a sour, short-tempered turn.

Steven is 25 and is embarking on what he hopes will be a solid career with his first employer. But Steven is having problems staying on task and meeting deadlines – something he struggled with in college, too.

Although Deborah and Steven are walking different paths, what they may have in common is an undiagnosed mental illness that’s presenting itself at work. In Deborah’s case, it could be depression; in Steven’s, ADHD.*  And, like millions of Americans nationwide who suffer from mental health conditions, Deborah and Steven may not seek treatment for a variety of reasons, including the fear of being stigmatized, or the cost of treatment.

While the economic burden of mental illness is staggering -- major depression alone costs the U.S. $210.5 billion per year, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry -- depression and other mental illnesses also takes a toll among sufferers, their loved ones, co-workers and others.

what employers can do to help mental health of workers

What can employers do?

When mental health issues present themselves in the workplace, employers can play an important supportive role. To help address the stigma shrouding mental illness, for example, leadership can create and model a workplace culture of openness and acceptance, bring in experts to talk with employees about caring for their mental health, and coach supervisors on how to identify potential mental illness in an employee and how to deal with the situation.

Employers also can provide employee assistance programs, which are commonly online or by phone, that help employees deal with stress, which may be affecting how they do their jobs. Other resources, such as wellbeing programs, can also foster healthy habits.

How to use HSAs for mental health

When it comes to helping employees manage the cost of mental health treatment, a health savings accounts (HSA) is a useful tool. While every insurance plan has its own guidelines regarding mental health treatment, any employee who owns an HSA can use his or her tax-free dollars to pay for care.

Among the eligible costs:

  • Counseling from psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed social workers and other health workers, both in-patient and out-patient services
  • Psychoanalysis services
  • Prescription drugs such as Prozac, Xanax, Valium and others to treat anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, eating disorders, etc.
  • Acupuncture, which studies have shown to be helpful in treating certain mental illnesses including depression and drug addiction
  • AA meetings
  • Physician-prescribed over-the-counter medications and products such as a sun lamp to treat seasonal affective disorder
Acupuncture is an eligible HSA expense
employers should show workers how to use HSAs for mental health

Over the last two decades

HSAs have earned a solid reputation as they allow consumers to save money for their health care now and into the future, reduce taxable income, and withdraw funds for qualified medical expenses without tax penalty. Many people, however, aren’t aware that they can use their HSAs to cover multiple mental health treatment options.

During Mental Health Month, employers can take advantage of the next few weeks to raise awareness about mental health and educate their employees on how HSAs can help pay for mental health care expenses, and help them healthier lives.

*For illustrative purposes only. Further staff are not medical doctors and cannot make health diagnoses. If you suspect that you, a co-worker or loved-one is suffering from mental illness, consult your insurance plan or contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which can help you find nearby assistance.

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