How Employers Can Launch Mental Health Screening and Realize Proven Benefits

How Employers Can Launch Mental Health Screening — And Realize Proven Benefits

Aligning screening with early intervention is an essential mental health strategy, including for employers who are committed to workplace well-being. As October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, it felt timely to discuss why screening is so important, how employers can leverage publicly available resources from trusted organizations, and remind their workforce about resources and services that are available to them to address their mental health needs.

The Power of Screening & Early Intervention

The mental health field has long struggled with a fundamental challenge. We know that timely intervention is critical, yet there is an average eleven-year delay between onset of first symptoms and the first intervention.

Widely accessible screening seeks to dramatically shorten this window, so people can get help early, when it will be most effective. Thankfully, screening availability and uptake are growing across a range of channels, like doctor’s offices, schools, and workplaces. According to the CDC, screenings, examinations, and health education were provided at 60% of community health center visits. And a record 5.4 million people took a mental health screening in 2021 with the Mental Health America Online Screening Program — up 500% since 2019.

The greatest benefits come when screening links seamlessly with options for action and intervention. For employers, these benefits include greater productivity and a healthier team. There’s health and economic benefit to investing in treatment, a WHO-led study found that every $1 USD invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety results in a return of $4 USD in improved health and ability to work.

How Employers Can Offer Effective, Confidential Screening and Resources

There are a variety of tools for organizations that want to begin offering mental health screening and resources to their employees. Many of these tools are designed for the workplace, with measures to ensure confidentiality and privacy, including through the process of finding follow-up resources and care.

Workplace mental health screening works best when integrated within a larger continuum of support. Employers can take several steps to get started:

  • Promote mental health screening: Employers can support their employees’ mental well-being by encouraging participation in free and anonymous online screenings. Mental Health America offers screeners and resources for a variety of mental health conditions free of charge. It’s important to note that online screening tools are meant to be a quick snapshot of one’s mental health and should not replace a full assessment from a trained mental health professional.
  • Link screening to educational resources and support: Screenings can refer employees to patient and educational resources, communicating how to get support based on results. This may include education on how to identify symptoms, have conversations with loved ones, and talk to a doctor. For example, The National Institute of Mental Health offers information, resources, and research about a variety of conditions.
  • Embed within robust workplace mental health programs: Screenings will work best if they are part of a larger culture and set of resources that encourage seeking mental health support. For a comprehensive effort, leaders can also implement stress management strategies, offer wellness programs, peer support groups, employee assistance programs, and other efforts that promote a culture of mental health and build capacity across the organization.
  • Embrace role modeling: Openly discussing mental health reduces stigma and promotes a culture of workplace mental health. When leaders share struggles with mental health and encourage the use of resources, it contributes to an environment of health-care-seeking behavior that translate to better outcomes for individuals.

This October, employers can join the growing movement to drive widespread mental health screening, earlier intervention, and ultimately better outcomes. Pairing screening with resources offers a demonstrated strategy to support employees’ well-being throughout their mental health journey.