Dr Leena Johns shared her insights on tailored mental health services

Our member partner MetLife Australia held events in Melbourne and Sydney in June focusing on mental health and financial wellness. The events gathered multinational employers and employee benefits professionals across both cities to join the all-important discussion about these global health megatrends.

In her sessions, Dr Leena Johns, our Chief Health and Wellness Officer, emphasised the importance of evolving workplace wellness strategies to address rising mental health problems across the globe.1

Her visit coincides with MetLife Australia's latest claims data release, which shows that mental health is a top concern for Australian employees, with around 45% of all claims citing it as the primary cause and 60-70% of claims listing it as secondary to the primary claim.

Dr Leena said: “Globally, post pandemic we’ve seen the rapid rise of mental health problems, these are driven by several factors, one of which includes financial stress and insecurity. When it comes to mental health management, employers play an important role in supporting and helping people to thrive. However, workplace wellness strategies have remained unchanged for decades, resulting in generic health solutions.”

"A one-size-fits-all approach fails to address individual needs, resulting in a lack of effectiveness in supporting and empowering employees.  As one of the most culturally diverse nations, factoring in cultural considerations into mental health services, businesses can foster an environment where employees feel genuinely supported, leading to enhanced productivity, wellbeing, and overall job satisfaction.”

MetLife Australia’s research shows 80% of employees are more likely to express their intent to remain with their organisation in the next 12 months when holistic employee health is prioritised.2 This means there’s a compelling case for workplaces to take a different approach to employee care.

Financial stress is an important megatrend that Dr Leena and MetLife Australia focused on at their events. They shared findings from MetLife’s Employee Benefits Trends Study (EBTS) where 71% of Australians reported suffering from financial stress, and 44% of employees felt mentally checked out of their jobs with 66% feeling a lack of a sense of purpose.2 According to the Blackdog Institute, mentally unhealthy workplaces costs Australia up to AUS $39 billion annually due to lost participation and productivity.3

Recognising the concerns of employees regarding mental health and financial stress, Dr Leena suggested:

  • measures to reduce mental stress in the workplace including recognising the link between financial literacy and mental health, and providing financial health services that focus on budgeting, setting financial goals and money management
  • employers consider providing an employee assistance programme (EAP) with access to local financial advisers and mentors to support employees in their overall wellbeing
  • businesses look closely at their own workforce and prioritise the programmes that will make the biggest difference for their people. Each business will have different people, with different needs, so tailoring a bespoke plan is key to building an employee wellbeing programme that is fit for purpose.

With the rising cost of living and the link between financial stress and mental health, benefits which help employees secure their financial future are highly valued and only growing in importance.

  1. World Health Organization, Mental Health Disorders, (Sourced June 2022)
  2. MetLife Australia, 2022 Employee Benefits Trends Study, (Sourced 2022)
  3. Blackdog Institute, Modern work: how changes to the way we work are impacting Australians’ mental health, (Sourced 2021)