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Spark into action with your own personal on-line coach


Research shows that a combination of self-managed online tools and offline coaching support can have the most positive results in terms of cost and outcome, compared to either of these components on their own. In fact, the seamless integration of online health content, web tools such as clickable banners, an embedded phone-support program that automatically reaches out to employees when triggered, and face-to-face counselling all operating together do provide a superior level of support for any employee in need.

Thanks to this intervention, the employee is able to remain at work and a leave of absence is averted, significantly saving costs. Here is how this could benefit your workforce.

Case Study: From Intervention to Better Mental Health
When an employee’s physical or mental health is at risk, the right intervention at the right time can make all the difference. It can control costs, maintain productivity at work and, most importantly, protect an employee’s well-being in the long term. Take the case of this employee that had been struggling with stress at work. Lately, that person had become mentally fatigued, and was often in a depressed mood. He* was still at work, but now the symptoms were intensifying. He was beginning to have concerns about his ability to do his job. This employee was experiencing early signs of depression.

When mental health problems interfere with the ability to work, some of the most common symptoms reported are mental fatigue, poor concentration and memory difficulties. Often at-risk employees will initially receive a medical diagnosis of adjustment disorder, which describes a set of emotional and physical symptoms in response to stress. Chronic adjustment disorder increases the risk for long-term depression. Typically, an employee with a diagnosed adjustment disorder could be off work for four to six weeks. An employee diagnosed with depression, however, may not return to work for eight to 16 weeks. In some cases, this period is even longer, if for instance the employee does not respond well to treatment, has co-morbid health conditions, or cannot be adequately accommodated by the employer.

In this case, the employee went online to his workplace’s health navigation hub to look for help to manage his stress. Once there, the employee benefited from a seamless integration between the web platform where he researched health topics, and an embedded coaching program that would actively reach out to him, once it was triggered. While investigating the resources on the portal, the employee was nudged to complete a simple symptom checker to measure the impact of his health situation on his everyday life. The responses triggered an online invitation for him to receive additional support. When the employee accepted the invitation, he was prompted to complete an electronic call-back form. This automatically prompted a phone call from a nurse who did an initial assessment, followed by five phone sessions with a coach with professional healthcare training.

The coach, a psychologist, worked with the employee one-on-one to identify and resolve the challenges in his life that were contributing to the stress and depressive symptoms. A couple of factors were pinpointed in these phone sessions: the employee lacked an adequate support network, having few close, healthy personal relationships in his life. He also lacked insight about specific ways he could meet his personal and professional needs.

The coach guided him to reflect on and find potential solutions to these challenges. For instance, the employee joined a group that would provide the support network he lacked and also began jogging regularly again. The coach reports that as the employee developed a deeper understanding of his own personal and professional needs not only was he receptive to the coach’s suggestions, but was also highly motivated to put them into action.

At the end of the coaching sessions, the employee demonstrated improvement rating the impact of the depressive symptoms at 2/10, down from 8/10 when first completing the online symptom checker. The coach determined that he was rallying, and would be a good and committed candidate for face-to-face psychotherapy. Thus the employee was now directed to appropriate counselling services to continue his treatment.

In the self-evaluation, the employee reported having found the health navigation platform and telephone coaching helpful, and would not hesitate to recommend it to colleagues.

Clearly, this was a winning combination, set in motion at a time when it could have the most impact on this employee long-term health outcomes. When employees are able to access this kind of support quickly and easily, the results can be long-lasting.

*For reason of simplifying the text, ‘he’ implies ‘he or she’.

This Issue's Tip

Create a happy moment: Bake something that smells good and share it with your coworkers!