Honoring World Mental Health Day

October 10, 2022
Woman enjoy the outdoors

A call for employers to prioritize mental health

Today is the 30th annual World Mental Health Day. Created by the World Health Organization in 1992, the day aims to direct attention and resources to the critical importance of mental well-being. This year's campaign focuses on making mental health a priority for all people around the world.

The word "priority" is chosen mindfully. Mental health is facing unusually severe threats from a host of factors, including war, social unrest, economic hardships and the COVID-19 pandemic — across the world and here in the U.S. To combat these threats, mental health must be taken seriously.

The workplace is a good place to start. Most people spend half their waking hours at work, where mental health challenges can have a direct impact on employees' ability to be fully present and engaged. Employers are well positioned to not only support employee mental health because it is the right thing to do but also because they will see a positive business impact from doing so.

A lingering crisis, a strengthening response

Employers have been seeing a worsening trend in employee mental health for several years, and the pandemic made such issues as stress, depression, and burnout significantly more common.1

Even as the pandemic apparently recedes, a recent employer survey conducted by Unum* showed that more than half of respondents (58%) are more concerned with their employees' overall mental health and wellness needs than they were a year ago.

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58% of employers are more concerned about employee mental health than they were a year ago

Employers in our survey consider providing mental health support for employees second in importance only to providing affordable benefits — and even more critical than employee recruitment and retention. And nearly two-thirds anticipate an increase in the usage of mental health benefits among their employees in the coming year.

In response, the proportion of organizations offering mental health benefits increased in 2021–2022, according to our survey. Most organizations either added, enhanced or considered mental health benefits in the past year, with just as many planning on improvements in the year ahead.
Plans for mental health benefits next year
Bar chart showing plans for mental health benefits next year. 34% add new benefits. 44% enhance existing benefits. 39% considering adding or enhancing benefits. 14% not actively considering adding or enhancing benefits.
Source: Unum Employer Insights Pulse Survey, 2022.

Ensuring benefits have impact

As employers look to add or enhance their mental health benefits, research shows that those benefits must be crafted so they can have the desired impact. It's not enough to provide employees with a list of names and numbers. Employers need to offer programs that reduce the stigma of seeking mental health treatment and provide quick and easy access to proven treatment.

Reducing stigma

Many employers note that the mental health programs they offer aren't being used. One common reason for this is the stigma that persists around mental illness and seeking treatment to improve mental health. In our survey, two-thirds of respondents place a high priority on reducing the stigma around mental health in the workplace.

Combatting this stigma requires that employers promote a culture of openness and acceptance around mental health, as well as encourage employees to use available resources, through clear, empathetic and frequent communication.

Enabling access

When an employee finally takes the step to seek mental health, the last thing they need is a long wait to receive care right for them. Treatment and resources that employees can access digitally and on their own schedule can mean the difference between a person who supporttheir mental health and one who gives up.

Unum Behavioral Health offers expanded benefits

The Unum Behavioral Health program provides a powerful, innovative way to promote, support and improve employee mental health, with built-in training, communication and easy digital and virtual access. We have recently expanded our program by including an additional treatment pathway. The new "guided self-therapy" pathway provides employees with digital therapy resources they can use at any time, in any environment where they feel comfortable. This clinically proven approach allows even more employees to get access to the mental health support they need.


1 SHRM, Employers Grapple with Surge in Mental Health Issues, 2022.

* All statistics are from the Unum Employer Insights Pulse Survey, 2022, which surveyed 400 employers in a wide variety of industries between March 28 and April 5, 2022.