- Stephen Dunne
- Publish Date
Mental health is universal, and everyone needs access to the right care at the right time. But lately, with limited availability of care providers and difficult-to-navigate care pathways, mental health support—for both clinical and everyday mental health challenges feels more like a privilege available to a select few. Recognized annually on October 10th, World Mental Health Day draws our attention to the mental health inequities experienced worldwide, pushing us to come together to break the stigma and unite on a common mission—to make mental health for all a reality.
While the overarching goal of raising awareness and inspiring action remains the same, the World Health Organization (WHO) designates a new theme each year for World Mental Health Day that highlights what needs to be done to address the current global mental health issues. In 2023, the WHO aims “to improve knowledge, raise awareness, and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right” with their theme: Mental health is a universal human right.
Mental health is a universal experience—we all have mental health and it can change based on our experiences, our current situation, and our environments. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 people are living with a diagnosable mental health condition at any given time, with 83% of individuals experiencing at least one mental health issue by middle age.
In the years following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health struggles have become more common, meaning that the demand for mental health support is higher than ever. Unfortunately, as the need for support is growing, the availability of licensed therapists and clinicians is diminishing. With fewer than one mental health care provider for every 350 people in the United States and individuals seeking professional support in the UK facing a waitlist of 12-weeks or more, the time for change is now.
Addressing mental health in the workplace
Given that we spend roughly one-third of our lives at work, employers are in a unique position to make an impact on the mental health of their workforce. The good news is that many organizations have heeded the call and increased their investment in benefits. Supporting employee mental health has evolved from a nice-to-have perk to a workplace necessity—but there’s still ample room for improvement.
Many of the mental health investments employers are making are not resonating with most workers. Three in four employees report that their current mental health benefits fall short of their needs and 68% say they don’t use benefits to their full value because they’re too time-consuming, confusing, or cumbersome. So, what can organizations do to ensure they’re effectively meeting the ever-changing mental health needs of their unique populations?
Breaking the stigma and bridging gaps in care
Despite a growing number of people struggling with their mental health, more than half avoid seeking professional treatment. Whether it’s lingering stigma or a preference for less intensive mental health support, most individuals say they’d choose a self-help option that enables them to engage with the care they need when they need it.
Making mental health a universal right will require a shift in both perspective and approach. First, we must do more to help individuals, employers, and providers gain a clearer understanding of mental health and wellbeing and how to navigate to the right care. Education and communication are crucial to bridging existing gaps in care, ensuring support spans the entire mental health continuum—ranging from everyday mental wellbeing support to more critical, clinical care.
In other words, we need to widen the current approach to increase focus on prevention and care navigation without neglecting crisis management. By supporting mental health before it reaches a critical tipping point, and inclusive, accessible pathways to care, we can connect individuals with the care that meets their needs at present while freeing up professional services for those who can truly benefit from them.
The right care, at the right time, in the right way
The current care system can be frustrating, expensive, and difficult to navigate. To make mental health sustainable, employers must seek out scalable, innovative, and evidence-based services that can support employees from everyday mental wellness to therapy and clinical-level treatment. With the majority of people across all age groups reporting that they are open to technology-enabled care, hybrid solutions that leverage digital care with a human touch can lower barriers to entry while maintaining quality.
At Koa Health, we believe this model is the future and have been working tirelessly to deliver a service that leverages the best of both digitally-enabled management of everyday mental health challenges and human-led clinical services to meet the needs of your entire workforce—from the 75% of your employees who prefer to access self-care and those employees who need or want 1:1 time with a licensed therapist. With a prevention-first approach to personalized, precision care, employees can easily discover and access the right level of care for their current needs all from the privacy of their devices.
about the author
Chief Product Officer, Managing Director @ Koa Health
As CPO at Koa Health, Stephen's responsible for clinical product development. Dedicated to translating cutting edge science into technologies with real positive impact, Stephen spent his early career working in space applications before moving his focus to healthcare and bringing these skills to bear in applied neuroscience, leading a team that developed breakthrough hardware and software for brain monitoring and modulation.