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How employee assistance programs can help

Posted by on Feb 9, 2011 in Health, Moneyville | 0 comments

By Sheryl Smolkin

Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca

Bell Canada has designated today as “Let’s Talk Day” – a key element of their campaign to create a national conversation about mental health in Canada and reduce or eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness.

Olympic medalist Clara Hughes is  the spokesperson for this initiative and ,for every text message sent and every long distance call made by their customers today, Bell will donate 5 cents to programs dedicated to mental health.

What surprises me in this and other mental health promotions is that there is no mention of the role that Employee Assistance Programs play in maintaining mental health in the workplace. If your employer provides you with a health care plan, chances are they also pay from $2 to $5 a month more in premiums to give you access to an EAP.  Judith Plotkin, a VP at EAP provider Homewood Human Solutions,  says a basic plan tyically gives employees access to counselling by social workers, psychologists, dieticians and other professionals.

Generally  these plans focus on short term counseling either on the telephone or in person. Plotkin says. Referrals are available in more serious situations, but she explains, “The key is to get in early. The majority have their needs met by the short-term model. Most of us are not going to need years of therapy.”

Employers offer EAPS because they save time and money for the company and the people who work for them. Plotkin agrees there are many excellent community services, but says finding and paying for these resources when you need them is a challenge. “I think employers recognize that life is tough and most of us go through struggles. If you want something that can help your employees remain productive, you put in an EAP.”

In the years when we had small children and big mortgages, I’m sure glad there was a number I could call for help when my family needed it most.

So kudos to Bell for getting a national conversation about mental health started. But let’s not forget the thousands of other public and private employers across the country who “walk the talk” every day, by giving their employees access to professional help through their EAP programs.

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