There’s a spike in demand for mental health support among employees in Singapore as a result of changes wrought by the pandemic, despite the more than S$3 billion (US$2.3 billion) already spent annually in the country on stress-related health treatments, said Mercer recently.
In the new shape of work where there are dramatic changes in how employees work, long work hours, a heavy workload and worries about job security and financial commitments can all affect employees’ mental health and wellbeing, the company noted.
According to Mercer, a recent survey it did across Asia Pacific, 62% of employees said they were experiencing stress arising from fear of being made redundant while 64% said they were concerned about the impact of working from home on their work-life-balance.
The possibility of wage cuts due to the pandemic was causing worry among 45% of employees, Mercer observed, adding that such additional stresses can lead to lower productivity, disengagement, and an increase in days away from work.
Globally, major depressive disorder, mild depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and alcohol dependence and abuse are all on the rise among employees, the company said.
“If there’s a positive to come from COVID-19 and its impact on workforces, it’s that traditional stigma associated with employees acknowledging mental health issues and organizations providing pathways to better mental health is improving in Singapore,” said Neil Narale, Singapore Health Leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits.
“Mental health is increasingly being recognised as an equally important factor to physical health and wellbeing in a productive and healthy workforce.”
Access to comprehensive mental health services can be expensive in Singapore and historically has not been covered by some local group medical plans adopted by employers, Mercer said.
Last year, a report by healthcare consultancy firm Asia Care Group pointed out that more than 160,000 people in Singapore were admitted to public hospitals as inpatients for stress-related illnesses every year, at an annual cost of around US$931 million.
More than 11 million appointments were made with general practitioners in the country annually as a result of such illnesses, costing about US$1.1 billion, the report added.
According to Mercer, it recently joined forces with Aviva to provide current corporate insurance plan clients the opportunity to enhance employer-provided insurance under a Mental Wellness Plan designed to make access to mental health services easier and more affordable for both employers and employees.
The new plan is now available to employers with a medical plan insured with Aviva and will include coverage for employee mental health conditions, coverage for the cost of approved medications, access to a carefully selected panel of well qualified mental health professionals and cashless payment options, according to Mercer.