What does wellness mean to you? For generations, being “healthy” is related solely to physical fitness. However, as society has evolved and perceptions have changed, our definition of wellness has grown in complexity. Now, behavioral health is seen as a priority right alongside physical activity, proper nutrition, and medical care.

Behavioral health services go beyond routine physical check-ups to focus on the daily habits, behaviors, and actions that can impact a person’s mental health, as well as physical health. While this kind of care has been growing in prominence for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly increased awareness. Today, the importance of overall wellness can be seen in expanded investment from healthcare providers, new commitment from employers across industries, and rapid growth in career opportunities for behavioral health professionals. 

The Pandemic Effect

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has had major effects on mental health in the United States. In addition to concerns about safety and the trauma of confronting serious illness and death, millions of Americans have also faced financial hardships; these factors have all combined to create a growing mental health crisis. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic. Further polling uncovered that “many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol consumption or substance use, and worsening chronic conditions, due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.” As feelings of social isolation lingered due to shifts in safety protocol, many of these effects have only deepened over time.

As the growth in remote work continues to blur the lines between home and work, these mental health effects of the pandemic have also crept into the workplace. In fact, the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions’ June 2021 Mental Health Index revealed a 24 percent decline in sustained attention since April. All told, the workforce’s ability to remain engaged in tasks has dipped a whopping 59 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, due in part to the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The bottom line is that if employers truly want to make a commitment to the wellbeing of their workforce, a focus on behavioral health must be a top priority.

Employers Respond

It’s clear that employers can no longer ignore the mental health of their workforce. Businesses have long been concerned with productivity, but the human cost of burnout runs much deeper than dollars and cents. With that in mind, organizations are becoming more proactive in identifying and addressing behavioral issues before critical effects appear. 

A report by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of large employers now train their managers to recognize the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other disorders. These numbers are poised to increase, with an additional 18 percent of organizations surveyed noting plans to begin implementing this kind of training in 2021. The expansion of behavioral health leadership skills development comes in addition to free or low-cost virtual mental health visits currently being offered by 54 percent of employers. While this shift in resources is encouraging, healthcare providers now face a new challenge – hiring qualified staff to meet sharply growing demand. 

Behavioral Health Career Growth

For those interested in pursuing a career in behavioral health, there have never been more opportunities. LinkedIn data shows 24 percent year-over-year growth among mental health professionals. These findings seem to be reinforced by the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Their projections show in-demand roles, such as mental health counselors and behavior therapists, on pace for a 25 percent jump in the number of jobs by 2029. 

For healthcare employers, the time to commit to a robust behavioral health hiring strategy is now. The demand for holistic wellness services shows no signs of slowing, both from individuals and organizations. Building a workforce with the skills ready to take on the challenge is critical.

Are you looking to add behavioral health talent to your team? Contact Medix Healthcare today to learn how we can positively impact your organization.