The role of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) in mental health support

The role of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) in mental health support

Where there is a mind, there is mental health. Every individual, irrespective of their gender, financial status, or background, faces challenges that can overpower their strength and courage. It is important to have systems and platforms around us that can be accessed during such hard times. They form and enhance an individual’s socio-emotional support and help in making them empowered through healthier coping mechanisms and increased resilience. 

In recent years, the corporate world has also focused on aspects that can contribute to employee wellbeing and improved satisfaction. Such factors include focusing on employee feedback, introducing them to policies that they can make use of, and opening up a platform for employee expression through the means of Employee Assistance Programs.

An EAP majorly focuses on the following factors:

  1. Opening up a safe space for the employees.
  2. Strives to enhance employee experience and workplace wellbeing by implementing healthy policies.
  3. Assessing and evaluating their needs through assessments and exercises.
  4. Identification and Management of emotions by teaching helpful ways to cope with stressors and equipping individuals to manage their emotions.
  5. Sensitization and promotion of empathy.

Think of EAP as an equivalent of free medical insurance that you can sign up for your mental wellbeing. These programs are covered by the company and employees can avail of these services at no cost till the time they are a part of the organization. These programs are offered by various Mental Health Service Providers and/ or qualified Mental Health Professionals who are trained in dealing with such concerns. 

What does the Employee Assistance Program do?

It makes sure that the individual gets an open, non-judgmental, and reflective space within the organization that they work for. This space is focused on understanding the issues the employee is going through and providing them with better coping mechanisms and enhanced emotional management.

For example, if Mr. X is dealing with occupational burnout and finds it challenging to manage work. He approaches the therapist through his company’s EAP services. The Mental Health Professional then invites him to have sessions thrice a week where Mr. X will be taught guided relaxation. Mr. X will also be able to discuss issues that lead him to burnout and address things that could have been done differently. The therapist can use various tools and activities to promote rest, relaxation, and peace that will help Mr. X to manage his emotions better. 

A study by The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) reveals that about 43 percent of employees from the Private sector in India are suffering from anxiety or depression at work. A report by Optum Health International suggests that out of 1.1 million registered companies in India, only about 1000 are said to have a concrete Employee Assistance Program in place. This gap is concerning because it not does it only results in a company’s poor performance and poor employee retention but also contributes to less defined infrastructure to manage employee wellbeing in the future.

Reduced stress and anxiety at the workplace and increased productivity

When you are feeling healthy and happy, your mind is very fertile. It can hold much more space for the optimization of new and innovative ideas. It has a positive impact on how you perceive work and how you perceive yourself at the workplace. It builds more commitment and sincerity towards your work. Positive employee engagement leads to better results and improved business productivity.  

Ensures psychological safety for the employees:

Psychological safety is the defined ability felt by a group of people at work to take risks, voice their fears or questions without feeling threatened or judged, and the ability to express their honest opinions and ideas. This is one of the most crucial factors that play a big role in employee retention, job satisfaction and the company’s morale as well. Employee Assistance Programs make sure to provide sensitization to the employees and offer emotional support. It equips them to make better decisions and cope better. 

Improved wellbeing: 

The World Health Organization points out that for every $1 invested in the treatment of Common Mental Disorders (CMD), there is a boost through the return of $4 in employee productivity and improved health. It proves that not just the employees but the company also significantly benefits from the service.

Increased interpersonal relationships

EAP services promote the cultivation of positive habits and a feeling of camaraderie that reflects improved interpersonal relationships and reduced conflicts at work. Being better at emotional management not only opens the door of empathy for one to understand other person’s points of view but it also helps one to manage their emotional reactions during challenging situations. 

Improved coping mechanisms

There are two kinds of healthy coping mechanisms: healthy and unhealthy.

An example of unhealthy coping mechanisms would be using substances like alcohol or tobacco to cope temporarily with stress and anxiety or procrastinating whereas healthy coping mechanisms include identifying the stressor and actively coming up with healthy alternatives for example meditating or journaling to calm yourself down or going for a short walk.