Mental Health Index Data Shines Spotlight on 3 Key Employer Challenges

Experts use data to look back, look forward on workplace mental health at the National Alliance 2021 Annual Forum


SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTONNov. 11, 2021  — Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain, spoke to attendees at the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions’ 2021 Annual Forum about the state of workplace mental health. Gagnon was joined by National Alliance President and CEO, Michael Thompson, and Colleen McHugh, executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association. In its 25th year, the Forum is a leading healthcare and benefits conference bringing together employers, coalitions and other stakeholders.


On November 9, Gagnon, Thompson and McHugh hosted a panel discussion, Looking Back, Looking Forward on Workplace Mental Health – a Conversation. Much of the exchange was based on key findings from the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition.


According to the index data, released in October, when compared to before COVID-19, workers risk of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is up 53%, while their capacity for sustained attention is down 53%. Further, anxiety is up 13% in contrast to pre-pandemic data.


“The PTSD numbers do not reflect clinical diagnostics; rather, they are a measure of how people are responding to extreme feelings and thoughts,” explained Gagnon. “The data demonstrates that our mental health and wellbeing is not only driven internally. We are also largely influenced by our external environment. For employers, the Mental Health Index findings underscore the stunning impact that external factors like political and economic environments, market conditions, leadership and workplace culture have on workers’ mental health.”


Gagnon, Thompson and McHugh covered top trends in employee mental health over the past 18 months and discussed key challenges for employers as they reconsider their business models and guide employees’ return to work.


  • Productivity and Performance: Chronic pandemic-induced stress and anxiety have unleashed a nine-month surge in PTSD. U.S. employers are faced with a fearful and overwhelmed workforce unable to focus. They are easily distracted and overreactive. Productivity and quality of work may suffer. Employers are challenged to lead with empathy and authenticity by sharing their own struggles; expecting and forgiving mistakes; and encouraging workers to express their concerns and fears.
  • Workplace Culture/Environment: The environment has an oversized impact on mental health and wellbeing. Employers are challenged to address trauma in the workplace by understanding their role in exacerbating trauma and their power to help alleviate workers’ overwhelming anxiety by treating mental health and physical health as inextricably intertwined.
  • Flexibility: Mental health struggles, from stress and anxiety to diagnosed mental health conditions, cannot be put on hold to accommodate a nine-to-five, five-day-a-week, on-site job. Employers are up against a forever changed workforce with new expectations and priorities. Business leaders are challenged to leverage the power of flexibility to help improve the mental health of workers as they struggle to return to the workplace and maintain balanced lives.

Thompson said, “We had a mental health crisis before the pandemic and that crisis has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. We must address the issues of affordable access to all levels of quality mental health services. Collectively, the public and private sector must work together to motivate change. If we do not, things will only get worse.”


“Corporate culture is a priority and focus of HR executives,” said McHugh. “The mindset of employees and how they show up to work makes a difference in an organization’s success. Creating a corporate culture that de-stigmatizes mental health issues and integrates mental health resources into the core benefits structure will be critical moving forward.”


To learn more, download the latest Mental Health Index. Moving forward, the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition will be released quarterly. In January 2022, the Mental Health Index will look back at Q4 employee mental health data, trends and influential factors.


Methodology: The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition is powered by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring ad self-care platform, distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute. The index contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users. The Index is NOT a survey or a poll. Data is culled from neuroscientific brain assessments using standardized digital tasks and questions from the Total Brain platform. Participants include workers from all walks of life and regions, job levels, occupations, industries, and types of organizations (public vs. private). The brain assessments used to compile the Mental Health Index were taken weekly from the first week of February 2020 until the week starting September 20, 2021, inclusive.


About Total Brain: Total Brain is based in San Francisco and publicly listed in Sydney, AUS (ASX:TTB). Total Brain is a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform that has more than 1M registered users. Benefits for employers and payers include better mental healthcare access, lower costs and higher productivity. Benefits for healthcare providers include improved patient outcomes, tracking of evidence-based outcomes across the continuum of care, and a reduction in clinician fatigue.


About the National Alliance: The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (National Alliance) is the only nonprofit, purchaser-led organization with a national and regional structure dedicated to driving health and healthcare value across the country. Its members represent private and public sector, nonprofit, and Taft-Hartley organizations, and more than 45 million Americans spending over $300 billion annually on healthcare.


About HR Policy Association: HR Policy Association is the lead organization representing Chief Human Resource Officers at major employers. The Association consists of over 390 of the largest corporations doing business in the United States and globally, and these employers are represented in the organization by their most senior human resource executive. Collectively, their companies employ more than 10 million employees in the United States, over nine percent of the private sector workforce, and 20 million employees worldwide. These senior corporate officers participate in the Association because of their commitment to improving the direction of human resource policy.


About American Health Policy Institute: American Health Policy Institute is a non-partisan non-profit think tank, started by the HR Policy Foundation, that examines the practical implications of health policy changes through the lens of large employers. The Institute examines the challenges employers face in providing health care to their employees and recommends policy solutions to promote the provision of affordable, high-quality, employer-based health care. The Institute serves to provide thought leadership grounded in the practical experience of America’s largest employers. Their mission is to develop impactful strategies to ensure that those purchasing health care are able to not only bend the cost curve, but actually break it, by keeping health care cost inflation in line with general inflation.


Media Contact:
Kelly Faville
Rocket Social Impact


SOURCE Total Brain

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