Patricia Chaney

Are Teen Mental Health Issues Taking a Toll on Your Employees?

Mental health issues are a growing concern for people across the country. From 2006 to 2013, one in eight emergency room visits were related to mental health, according to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.

Teen mental health is an issue of particular concern. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that 1 in 5 adolescents ages 13 to 18 has or will have a mental health condition, while about 11 percent have a mood disorder, 10 percent have a behavior or conduct disorder and 8 percent have an anxiety disorder.

The longstanding stigma around mental health only makes the problem worse. For teens, the average time lag between the appearance of symptoms and the seeking of treatment is 8 to 10 years, according to NAMI. Compared to getting help at the start, this delay can increase costs in the long run and lead to adverse health outcomes.

Teen mental health issues may pose a serious challenge for your employees as they try to navigate work, health care costs and the demands of managing their children’s well-being. Here’s what you need to know to help.

What Does Mental Health Care Cost?

Costs can be steep for your employees trying to pay for counseling sessions, medications, occupational therapy and/or other services to support their teenagers. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder — ADHD — has been a focus in recent years. It can also exemplify the potential costs of adolescent mental health issues.

ADDitude magazine surveyed 600 readers about their out-of-pocket expenses. The average one-time out-of-pocket costs for ADHD evaluation and diagnosis were more than $2,600, with an additional $2,125 going toward treatment appointments and $935 toward medications annually.

Other mental health conditions come with their own diagnostic, treatment and medication expenses. And secondary costs to your employees may include missed work, lost productivity or their own stress management — all of which risk becoming costs for your business, too.

What Can Employees Do?

Although it can be expensive to treat mental health conditions, it can be even costlier to put off treatment, which can precipitate further complications or emergency room admissions. As an employer, consider recommending the following options to support your employees and help them keep their costs down.

  • Use school counselors. Kids and teens have access to counselors who may be able to talk them through emotional challenges or refer them to lower-cost therapists or other community resources.
  • Attend support groups. If individual counseling isn’t feasible, support groups can offer accessible help and a sense of community.
  • Visit a community mental health center. These centers may offer counseling services on a sliding scale that corresponds to income level.
  • Talk to a doctor about medication options. Ask for samples or prescription discount cards from the manufacturer, and use generic alternatives whenever possible. Your employees can proactively discuss mental health medication costs with doctors and ask for ways to pay less.
  • Save in flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts. Encourage employees to take advantage of the health care savings options you offer as part of their benefits package.
  • Ask and learn about their insurance benefits. It can be hard for your employees to decipher health insurance benefits. As part of your ongoing benefits communication strategy, encourage them to ask questions about what relevant coverage options they have available to them.
Destigmatizing Invisible Illness, Part 1: Mental Health Read article

As you continually re-evaluate your benefits offerings and make adjustments, be sure to take mental health needs like these into account. When you help your employees help their children and teenagers, your business only stands to gain.

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