Employer-sponsored early intervention helps employee mental health conditions

mental health support

The figures collated over the last five years show a huge improvement across all mental health conditions where employees have been provided with support from RedArc’s nurses and their specialist third-parties.

Based on two widely-used mental health screening tools – PHQ9 and GAD7, RedArc has monitored changes in patients, and found that eight out of ten patients saw a reduction in both their PHQ9 and GAD7 scores, equating to their condition improving. Additionally, the average reduction in the score for both tests was over 50 per cent and 70 per cent of patients recovered to normal mood levels within three to four months.

PHQ9 screening for mental health conditions

PHQ9 scores are recorded on a points basis: 0-4 is considered as ‘no depression present’; 5-9 ‘mild depression present’; up to 20-27 as ‘severe depression’. Following a diagnosis, various courses of action are proposed, commencing with an assessment and long-term telephone support by a mental health nurse. Support can include specialist counselling or other therapies, through to advice on lifestyle changes and information about medication. After a period of the combined support from the mental health nurse and the most appropriate therapy or counselling, patients are reassessed and, on average, scores reduced by half i.e. an employee initially presenting with a score of 18 – moderately severe, reduced to 9 – mild.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says: “Employees who do not have access to mental health support via their employers’ insurances, would have to navigate the NHS system, which means getting a GP referral and then waiting for availability of mental health support services, which can often take some time. This can cause an additional level of stress for the individual, meaning their condition could escalate as well as a potentially longer spell of absence from work.

“Early intervention is key in supporting employees with mental health conditions. For employers this means taking two actions: selecting group risk, health insurance products or Employee Assistance Programmes that offer third-party support services, and secondly, communicating their availability to their staff. Too often people are not aware of these services, or they’re not fully understood and are therefore under-utilised.”

Assessment important

Whilst counselling is often available via services such as Employee Assistance Programmes, it is important to recognise that counselling may not always be the most appropriate approach. Assessment of the needs of each employee by a qualified mental health nurse is an important first step and ensures that they receive the most appropriate form of therapy. This may indeed be counselling, but other therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) may be assessed as more beneficial.

Early and long-term support

It’s important that employers understand that mental health problems are not always black and white in the way that physical ailments may be: an employee who has suffered from severe mental health problems may be sufficiently recovered to return to work but if they do not have ongoing support the conditions could recur. Specialist services can be very beneficial for employees until the individual feels they no longer require them, even after returning to work.

Similarly, employees who do not have a fully developed condition but are feeling overwhelmed or under stress can benefit from a personalised telephone support service as it may prevent a condition worsening and thus reduce the length of suffering and prevent claims on insurances at a later date.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc concludes: “Nipping existing conditions in the bud is crucial to the success of treating mental health issues, as is prevention before an employee develops a more serious disorder. It has been widely acknowledged that the NHS has significant shortcomings in the timely treatment of mental health conditions, and so more employees will be turning to their employer for help in ensuring a return to productivity and wellbeing.”