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Why primary care matters for your employees' mental health

Mar 29, 2017
By Kristen Scarlett
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For those dealing with mental illness, every day can feel like a struggle. And it isn’t an uncommon problem — according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, nearly 1 in 5 adults (approximately 44 million) in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year. In fact, depression is now the leading cause of disability in the U.S. — and nearly 60 percent of people go undiagnosed.

The impact of mental illness goes beyond day-to-day personal situations. People who are silently suffering can also experience a multitude of challenges in the workplace. Productivity may be diminished, and a crop of other, more physical issues may arise — anything from minor conditions that distract from work (such as eczema or psoriasis) to more serious problems like increased blood pressure or heart attack. With proper treatment, though, employees can find productive ways to cope with these stresses, living a more balanced and satisfying life both at home and in the office.

Why Aren’t Employees Getting Mental Health Support?

  1. Awareness: Employees often don’t even realize they have a problem. For example, they may occasionally have difficulty sleeping or experience shortness of breath, but they haven’t considered that the root cause of those symptoms could be stress or anxiety. Some conditions may also manifest in nontraditional ways — this is especially common with men, who may not view impulsive or risky behaviors, inappropriate anger, or escapism (like watching excessive amounts of sports or spending too much time at work) as anything unordinary.  
  2. Cost: Many psychology professionals are out of network and, when faced with high out of pocket costs, employees may choose to forego treatment.
  3. Questions about resources: When employees lack knowledge, they may inaccurately believe that treatment is too expensive — or they may simply be in the dark about where to find the appropriate resources.
  4. Stigma: Sometimes, people fear that they’ll be treated differently or unfairly due to a diagnosis, so they choose to ignore the issue.
  5. Wait times: It takes an average of 25 days to see a psychiatrist in the U.S. Long wait times can dissuade employees from seeking help.

To combat these roadblocks, some organizations offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that provide education, resources, and help for employees experiencing personal and professional stress. Unfortunately, few people take advantage of these programs — some employees fear that their interactions with EAP resources are not confidential, while others may not even know these resources exist.

By contrast, employees do place a great deal of trust in their primary care providers (PCPs), making them a great place to turn for help with mental health concerns. At One Medical, PCPs cultivate an ongoing relationship with every patient and serve as the core of an individual’s health care team to ensure the best and most complete view of their patient’s health and history. One Medical’s PCPs are equipped to diagnose and treat a variety of issues related to anxiety and depression, stress management, and insomnia. A One Medical PCP can also help prevent mental health issues, encouraging and guiding their patients with healthy lifestyle recommendations, psychoeducation, and early symptom management — all of which can greatly decrease productivity issues, sick days, and office visit expenses. Should the patient have a more complex issue that requires the attention of a psychiatrist or other specialist provider, a PCP can streamline the process of getting the patient specialized care.

How Does One Medical Increase Access to Mental Health Care?

  • More time: One Medical allots more time for standard office visits, giving a PCP time to get to know his or her patient, ask plenty of questions, and conduct more thorough examinations.
  • Investment in learning and development: One Medical providers have been trained to conduct anxiety and depression screenings and are able to refer to other providers or clinical resources when patients require additional attention.
  • Team-based care: Between the mental health specialists, psychiatric nurses on staff, and the ability to book same-day appointments or immediate care 24/7 via the Virtual Team, patients can get the care they need ASAP, even if their PCP is not a mental health specialist.

One Medical was founded on a better model of care. Rather than simply writing prescriptions and sending patients on their way, One Medical is focused on working with every patient to create a personalized primary care plan, taking all aspects of a patient’s health and lifestyle into consideration.

Given the importance of access to mental health care for both employees and employers, it’s vital for companies to ensure that their benefits package provides not only great access to primary health care, but to mental health care, as well. It’s just as important for people to realize they need help as it is to provide them resources once they do. By offering access to providers and resources for your employees, One Medical can help keep the workforce happy, healthy, and functioning at their peak.

Are you an HR professional and looking for new benefits to support your employees’ health needs? Get more info on how One Medical can help your team.

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Kristen Scarlett

As a mental health counselor, Kristen enjoys getting to know her patients deeply, encouraging their growth and helping them develop the insight needed to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. She primarily utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice, listening to her patients and then providing feedback focused on constructing solutions for everything from relationship issues to anxiety disorders. After earning her master's in counseling psychology from College of St. Elizabeth, Kristen developed her skills providing individual and family therapy in both the private practice and hospital settings. She spent several years as an oncology counselor and also managed her own private practice. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and is certified through the NBCC.

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. 1Life Healthcare, Inc. and the One Medical entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.