Although there is no simple solution for employers to identify mental and behavioral health issues among employees, employers can mitigate workplace crises by establishing a comprehensive prevention and response strategy to effectively support employees in need. Often, individuals that exhibit mental and behavioral health issues in the workplace will go unnoticed out of fear or shame caused by stigmas and perceived consequences. An organization’s preparedness can therefore make a difference when it comes to shaping workplace culture, breaking down stigmas, and providing the necessary support functions for individuals that need focused attention.

In recognition of World Mental Health Day, the Chicagoland Chamber hosted a panel of healthcare executives to discuss how employers can help provide critical behavioral health access and create solutions to meet the needs of at-risk employees.

Featured speakers for the discussion included Advocate Aurora Health Vice President of Operations Renee Donaldson, Gateway Foundation Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Engagement Dr. Teresa Garate, and St. Peter’s Health Partners Chief of Hematology and Medical Oncology Dr. Ajaz M. Khan. The discussion was moderated by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Vice President and Cheif Medical Officer Dr. Derek Robinson.

“The coming-out of the pandemic, there was a significant heightened concern and awareness of behavioral health as it affects all of us. The more and more we’ve seen [post-pandemic] has been significant concerns of anxiety, depression, as well as substance abuse, and poor behavioral issues that have occurred from just the stresses of the pandemic,” said Dr. Ajaz M. Khan to open the discussion.

“The pandemic has really exposed some of the long-standing behavioral health needs amongst our workforce and the pandemic has also brough forth the use of some new tools that we haven’t used as much in the past such as tele-behavioral health and it has challenged us to rethink how we approach supporting employees and try to meet them where they are,” added Dr. Derek Robinson.

Dr. Teresa Garate provided, “an understanding of what is happening outside of the treatment space, meaning outside of actually providing service, that supports employers and people accessing treatment for their mental heath; and that is legislation at the federal level and in Illinois, and some new policies in the forefront.”

Renee Donaldson stressed the importance of employers, employees, and service providers working together. She added, “There is no one person that can do this alone. No entity that can do it alone. It’s just too big of a scope and the demand is definitely there, especially coming out of the pandemic.”

To learn more, you can watch the full-length discussion below:

This discussion was hosted by the Chamber’s Healthcare Council.