New York, NY – You’ve no doubt heard the commercial catchphrase, “What’s in your wallet?” At times like these, it pays to know what’s in your benefits package.
What services are available to you? Who, if anyone, is your union or employer’s Emergency Assistance Program [EAP] representative? The EAP is set up to assist with free referrals and to act as a resource for members and employees in need of counseling or help with both work-related and personal-related struggles.
The pandemic shutdown, and the isolation it has created, has caused a surge in mental health challenges, and with those mental health challenges, a sharp rise in mental health costs. Fortunately, Covid vaccines, despite the botched rollout, are providing at least a semblance of hope. Still, a return to the workplace and a hint of normalcy, cannot overshadow the need for supportive mental health care. Deaths, isolation, social changes, depression, anxiety and loneliness have all led to personal anguish both at home and the workplace.
A project manager for a large firm recently told me that her entire EAP and Human Resources operations are outsourced to a private company.
“This is not uncommon with large firms,” she said. “Most companies do not want to deal with mental health, so they outsource the resources to remove themselves from responsibility.”
There are other serious problems as well.
“Working at a large company in commercial and global professional services, we become anonymous to one another,” she added. “There are more than 1,200 employees in our New York office alone. People can sit in a different side of the office and we would never know each other existed. This is how impersonal the workplace has become.”
This, of course, was the case prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, add the struggles of work and home-life balance when work-life and home-life occupy the same place. The project manager asked to remain anonymous not because she feared losing her job, but because she feared being stigmatized as emotionally weak.
“I reached out to our company’s EAP,” she said. “There was literally no help for me. I was given referrals to therapists that were too busy to fit me into their schedule.”
Fortunately, the project manager found personal assistance and a helpful solution through telemedicine therapy. She was offered an actual therapist to speak with instead of a switchboard operator from an outsourced agency that seemed to have no mental health training whatsoever.
In order to resurrect our economy, it is essential that we understand that self-care means maintaining both physical and mental health. Knowing what’s in your wallet is always important. However, knowing what’s in your health and benefits package can be life saving.
Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on thewrittenaddiction.com, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate. Ben can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org