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How Modern Health can help HR leaders foster a mentally healthy workforce

One of the best things HR leaders can do to support employee mental health is admit they don’t have all the answers, says one CPO.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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Before Maureen Calabrese joined Modern Health as its chief people officer in 2022, she was an HR leader elsewhere advocating for the adoption of the mental health benefits platform for employees.

Now, Calabrese works with employees whose job it is to help HR leaders support their workers’ mental health.

While there was a growing understanding of the importance of mental health in the workplace prior to 2020, “everything that unfolded [that year] exacerbated [the need] extremely quickly,” said Calabrese. Despite a desire to help employees, Calabrese said HR needs to remember that they’re not licensed mental health professionals—that is where tools like Modern Health play a key role.

“To suddenly feel like people are looking to you with real need and in sometimes quite acute need, it can be a really challenging position to be in,” Calabrese said. “I think many of us are drawn to this field because of this deep connection to people and this very empathetic lens that we see our team through.”

Providing support. Workplace mental health advocates are greatly needed. Some 76% of US workers have reported experiencing at least one symptom of poor mental health, according to a 2021 survey by Mind Share Partners. Meanwhile, 84% believe workplace conditions contributed to their symptoms, and 81% said they would prioritize mental health benefits in future job searches.

As demand has grown, Modern Health has helped HR pros at companies including Pixar, Stitch Fix, and Lyft connect their employees to top clinical care through an app with features including the WHO well-being assessment—which can help measure one’s mental health—as well as self-service wellness kits, a global network of certified coaches, and licensed therapists.

“After switching to Modern Health, we learned many team members felt excluded in the previous therapy-only offering,” Tanner Brunsdale, senior manager of benefits and mobility at Lyft, said in a testimonial on Modern Health’s website. “For some, therapy carries a heavy stigma—coaching and self-guided resources were an instant draw.”

Taking action. As Covid-19 accelerated the need for employer-provided mental health support, it also forced organizations to consider how they guide employees to such services. Calabrese said that before apps like Modern Health—which was founded in 2017—she had to navigate a labyrinth of HR red tape in the hope of finding employees proper care.

“[In the past] if I had an individual that was coming to me in an acute crisis, I would have to help them navigate our health plan and hope that there was someone who could see them,” she said. “It’s hard to know what that action is going to look like at that moment, so to be able to say one of the things we can do first and foremost, is create space for you with a licensed provider who will know how to provide the mental health support…it’s not a magic wand, but it gives you really concrete actions that you can take.”

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

Our HR newsletter delivers need-to-know industry news and insights to HR pros every weekday for free.