Headspace CEO Explains How ‘The Mental Health Pandemic Isn’t Slowing’

Headspace Health CEO Ross Glass joins Yahoo Finance Live to talk about World Mental Health Day and how mental health care remains a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Video version

Dave Briggs: Today is World Mental Health Day, a day to raise awareness of mental health issues and provide an opportunity for all of us to revitalize our efforts to make mental health a priority. Headspace Health CEO Ross Glass is with us now to talk about this. Good to see you, sir. The numbers are staggering. 20% of employees, according to Gallup, 20% are at work. I don’t know if this is the quiet trend to quit smoking or not. Are employers doing enough to help with mental health?

Russian glass: Obviously they are not. I think we’ve seen a spike during the pandemic as employers realize they have to focus on this, and they don’t have a choice. But 25% of employees now tell us that the focus on it has decreased, and that employers are not focusing on it now. However, what we’re seeing is that the mental health pandemic isn’t slowing down, is it? Even though the actual pandemic, the COVID pandemic is slowing, we are seeing a steady acceleration in need.

And that’s what World Mental Health Day is all about. How do we make sure that people understand that this is still an urgent need, and that we need to focus on it? And our job is how to transform the field of mental health to break down some of these barriers that people face in accessing mental health care today.

Rachel Akufo: Because, Ross, there is this recognition of mental health, but it doesn’t seem to translate, perhaps, into what some of these companies can or should do, or is there also a disconnect between people who feel comfortable enough using the resources that their companies offer as well?

Russian glass: Well, let’s start with the facts. The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 1 billion people with a diagnosed mental health condition. And 60% of them do not have access to care. This is due to access issues. They cannot find providers. It is because of cost issues. It is very expensive when they find a provider. Then there are all kinds of stigma issues. People still aren’t comfortable saying, Hey, I have a problem that I really need help with.

And so employers have to realize that they have a large percentage of their employees who are struggling now. Some estimates suggest that around 40% of employees have mental health issues. We have seen that 50% of employees are considering leaving work due to mental health issues at the moment.

And so we know that employers should focus on it. We are trying to raise awareness today. We run live meditations throughout the week. We do Ask Me Anythings for our client base, 4000 companies around the world that get access to our mental health care. We’ve partnered with 24 Hour Fitness to create the right environment for their members to get there. We’ve partnered with Pinterest. We really try to create awareness so that employers understand that this is something you should invest in, that will bring a positive return on investment, as well as support your employees.

Sheena Smith: It’s definitely critical and very important here, given the numbers you just mentioned, Ross. But when it comes to what companies do, and things that work, we’ve talked about mental health days. We know that Nike has given all of its employees a week off. The other companies step aside and meet three times. What’s your advice just as to what companies can do throughout the year to make sure they stay on top of this?

Russian glass: Great question. Few things. The first is making sure that the company’s leaders talk about it. If leaders are willing to say, ‘Hey, I’ve felt anxiety throughout my career, and had to manage issues like this,’ it helps take the stigma off everyone else. So this is number one. Look for leaders willing to talk about it.

The second, then, is to provide leadership training for managers. One of the most annoying things to do is have a conversation and say, ‘Hey, how are you,’ and dread the answer, right? If someone says to you, yeah, you know, I’m actually pretty depressed, and you, as a manager, don’t know how to respond to that, that can be very uncomfortable. So what we find is that managers don’t talk about it.

So provide training. We offer leadership workshops, for example, to help companies figure out how are we having these conversations? Then, third, make sure employees understand what is available to them. What we found is that 94% of CEOs say they do enough for mental health. Only 67% of employees agree. This is a big gap. And mostly, we think it’s because of communication. If it’s fired once, they won’t talk about it again, and when the employee really needs it, they don’t know it’s available to them. So communication, continuous enhancement of these available resources.

Dave Briggs: Maybe I can help with the stigma. I suffer daily from anxiety. I have no problem admitting that. I meditate every day. It’s helpful to see World Mental Health Day trending on Twitter all day long, telling you perhaps the stigma has shifted a bit. Cost and access are the other two factors you mentioned. What can be done about them?

Russian glass: Well, we’re trying to do a few things. The first is that we launched some programs today. One is our referral program where anyone with a Headspace account can now refer to – as many friends as they want for 30 days for free. This is the launch today.

We are also creating a My Headspace campaign. And people can share their stories via social media. They can talk about how they dealt with their anxiety, depression, and mental health issues, and what they did to help solve them, just to help people feel like they’re not alone there. As for your point of view, I like the fact that you’re willing to talk about it because everyone is mentally healthy. Everyone needs to think about this. And the more comfortable we feel when talking about it, the better.

On a larger scale, we have to think about creating more resources for our communities, especially those who are underserved. How do we get resources in those communities? Today, 50% of US counties have no mental health providers within their county boundaries. We cannot continue to operate in this way. And that’s where we really focus. How do we increase the amount of care that can be provided to each existing therapist, psychiatrist, or caregiver?

Rachel Akufo: I definitely feel that lack. My father is a psychiatrist. He retired and came back because there was such a need. So we appreciate the work you do and all of our mental health providers. Thank you very much, Ross Glass.

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