Approaching Behavioral Health Holistically

Dr. Amy McKenzie
Dr. Amy McKenzie

| 4 min read

Dr. Amy McKenzie, MD, is vice president of clinical ...

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As behavioral health needs grow among today’s workforce – and especially among the workforce of tomorrow – organizations need to change their approach to think beyond traditional interventions. To ensure a healthier, more productive workforce in the face of today’s challenges, employers need to implement a broad approach to behavioral health. Behavioral health isn’t just about the mind: it’s about integrating care to treat the whole person, so their physical and mental health care works in tandem. At the same time, steps should be taken to reduce the cultural stigma that prevents many from seeking the help they need.


A major barrier for many employees as they manage behavioral health issues is gaining access to the resources they need. Not only is seeking help a difficult first step – two out of five Americans live in areas that have a shortage of behavioral health providers. Employers can step in to help by offering several kinds of behavioral health supports. There are Employee Assistance Programs that can help employees connect with the care that they need. Some employers may also choose to offer behavioral health clinicians in the workplace or through a virtual platform. Another option is to lower the amount of cost-sharing employees have for behavioral health visits through their health plan. Increasing communication to employees on key behavioral health topics – like stress management, anxiety and depression, for example – can help build awareness of critical signs and symptoms that may have previously been ignored.


As an employer, while you consider which health plan offerings to provide to your employees, consider health plan partners that embrace integrated care models. Integrated care puts equal importance on physical and mental health. There’s an economic argument supporting this holistic approach to health care: the cost of treating individuals who have both chronic medical conditions and behavioral health issues are two to three times higher than those without a behavioral health condition. Health plans that empower primary care providers to work with behavioral health providers allow for better coordination of care, which in turn reduces costs.


A productive workplace is a healthy one – and that doesn’t just mean a weight on a scale. Creating a workplace culture that values a healthy environment for employees means expanding benefits beyond basic medical coverage. A broad range of perks including things like tuition reimbursement, flexible hours and workplace wellness programs can help employees feel fulfilled in their work-life balance and further committed to their roles. By taking steps to create a workplace that meets your employee’s needs, you are showing that you are listening and supporting them as more than just employees – but as people. Companies with engaged employees see as much as four and a half times more revenue growth than those with low employee engagement.


It can be incredibly difficult to step forward and seek help for a behavioral health issue – especially if an individual is worried about how they will be perceived socially and at work. There’s still a heavy stigma about seeking counseling or treatment, but employers have a powerful role to play. About 62% of employees said that if someone in a leadership role spoke openly about mental health, they would feel more comfortable talking about it themselves. By empowering leaders, workplace influencers and managers with training on mental health resources and support, dialogues about behavioral health in the workplace will become more common and less stigmatized. The opportunities are endless to integrate conversations about behavioral health into existing meetings – including new hire orientations, lunch time webinars and ongoing speaker series. Dr. William Beecroft, M.D., D.L.F.A.P.A., is a medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Dr. Amy McKenzie, M.D., is a medical director of provider engagement at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. More from
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association