Blog / DEIB

December 19, 2022

Culturally-Competent Mental Healthcare Makes a Difference for Employees Across the Globe

6 minute read

Written by

Mandie Conforti, LCSW avatar

Mandie Conforti, LCSW

Regardless of where we live, we all fall somewhere on the wide spectrum of mental wellbeing. But how mental health is talked about and supported is different around the globe. 

People have distinct lived experiences from cultures with unique social norms, legal systems, and religious conventions, and this impacts how they access care. 

The world is also profoundly dynamic, and made up of human systems that are constantly evolving over time. It’s important for any global mental health solution to recognize and adapt to the specifics of these dynamics and local systems.

Which is why Spring Health decided to build our global mental health offering from the ground up, ensuring we are providing relevant, culturally-competent care for employees in each country. 

Addressing barriers to global access to care

Mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and yet mental health services are still incredibly difficult to access globally. As many as 70% of people with mental health struggles receive no treatment.

In many countries, there are multiple, overlapping barriers to accessing mental healthcare. Some of these include: 

  • Not enough providers
  • No access to transportation
  • A lack of culturally appropriate screening tools and interventions
  • Limited awareness of mental health issues, often leading to discrimination against those who are struggling
  • Negative experiences with healthcare, especially around stigma and mental illness

There are financial barriers as well. A recent review of mental healthcare models around the world showed that in both public and private healthcare systems, costs associated with mental healthcare treatment are one of the main barriers to accessing care.

Additionally, mental health challenges aren’t visible in the same way physical ailments are. This barrier is the reason 70% of people end up living without treatment.

Time to care is one of the biggest barriers

About half of the world’s population lives in countries where there’s one psychiatrist for every 200,000 people. That ratio is one of the reasons it takes so long for people around the world to get an appointment with a mental health professional or access some form of treatment.

For example, here’s a sampling of wait times and shortages of mental health professionals globally:

  • In at least seven EU countries, the average wait time to see a mental health specialist is at least one month
  • In the U.K., 43% of adults with mental illness say that long wait times for treatment led to their mental health getting worse, with 23% waiting 12 weeks or more for an appointment
  • In Canada, the average wait time for mental health care is 24.4 weeks
  • In Slovenia, people wait 2-3 months for a psychiatrist appointment and the time balloons to 6-9 months for an appointment with a clinical psychologist
  • In India, there are fewer than two mental health professionals for every 100,000 people, two psychiatrists for every 250,00 people, and little or no access in rural areas, where 70% of the population lives
  • Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, and Croatia have fewer than 20 psychologists per 100,000 people.

Spring Health is committed to improving time to care for enrolled employees and their families globally by combining our clinically proven technology with high-touch care navigation

What a huge difference that can make for someone who is struggling with their mental health and needs immediate support.

Global communications: talking about mental health in relevant way

Every country has norms, stigmas, and specific ways of talking about mental health, but they’re still made up of large groups of people with diverse and nuanced sets of viewpoints. 

That complexity is exactly why mental health solutions—and how their services are communicated—must adapt to local dynamics. 

Here’s how Spring Health does this:

  • All communications are professionally translated into the local language
  • We connect with local providers to ensure culturally relevant programming and services
  • We provide our clients with marketing materials tailored around culture and language, to address stigmas that may exist around mental health and build awareness for the offering

Lastly, we’re in the process of implementing a regional provider advisory board. This board will be partnering with local clinicians to get their input on services relevant to the area they’re being utilized in, along with the appropriate language to inform marketing, care team interactions, and all communications with members. 

We understand that communicating with members about our global EAP offerings in a consistent way, while also considering the local cultural nuances and sensitivities, is critical for the success of the program.

Control over employee experience and engagement

Enrolled employees start their mental health journey by entering our portal, taking our clinically validated assessment, and utilizing all our services at the same high-quality level that we provide for enrollees around the world. 

Let’s take a closer look at how this works. 

The assessment: A foundation for better outcomes

Our assessment is the cornerstone of our Precision Mental Healthcare approach. It takes 3-5 minutes and screens for over 12 mental health conditions. 

Many people are dealing with more than one mental health issue at the same time, so it’s important that we’re able to recognize and treat intertwined conditions. 

The data we garner from the assessment is run through peer-reviewed machine learning models and compared to hundreds of thousands of other data points, ultimately matching each individual to the right care modalities.

The benefits of this approach include:

  • Identifying the right treatment modalities, and reducing trial and error
  • Ongoing clinical re-assessments
  • Eliminating barriers to effective treatment

Personalized care plan: A pathway to better mental health

After completing the assessment, each enrolled employee receives a personalized care plan with recommendations for treatment modalities. These may include therapy, coaching, medication management, or a combination.  

This clearly maps out next steps, and can be shared with the employee’s general practitioner or specialist so that everyone is working together for better outcomes.

Care navigators: co-pilots for each employee’s mental health journey

Next, employees are assigned to a Care Navigator, who is a licensed, master’s level clinician. They act as a co-pilot for the enrollee, guiding them throughout their mental health journey.

For example, if the employee ends up utilizing therapy, their therapist and Care Navigator will partner together to make sure the employee is making progress. 

Care Navigators are available 24/7, providing unlimited support in a variety of ways—including making care recommendations, assessing and de-escalating risk during a crisis, and following up to make sure treatment is providing measurable benefits.

They also help employees with:

  • Scheduling in-person sessions
  • Accessing care for minor dependents
  • Scheduling a coaching session 
  • Finding a therapist to better fit an employee’s needs and preferences

Spring Health regularly rescreens enrolled employees to ensure they’re doing better. If their symptoms are getting worse, their Care Navigator proactively reaches out to see how they can be supported. 

A strong, diverse global provider network is key

We interview all our mental health providers to uphold our high standard of care, using a seven step vetting process. This includes an interview, to assess for bedside manner and the use of evidence-based tools and medicine. 

Therapeutic alliance is the bond felt between the therapist and the employee, and it’s essential for successful progress during therapy. To build a strong relationship, the therapist needs to understand their patient’s mental health condition and the kind of treatment they need, as well as their cultural background, language, religion, lived experience, and gender.

This is one of the many reasons a diverse provider network is so important, and our network goes beyond demographics. It includes various subspecialities, appointment time availability, and a range of access points, for both in person and virtual sessions.

Read this blog to learn more about how a global mental health solution can benefit your entire workforce. 

About the Author

Mandie Conforti, LCSW avatar

Mandie Conforti, LCSW

Mandie currently serves as Senior Director of Employer and EAP Strategy at Spring Health. She has clinical experience in EAP and substance use treatment, and has previously worked as a Behavioral Health Consultant at Willis Towers Watson and Mercer. Mandie spent the last 20+ years working with Fortune 500 companies to promote emotional wellbeing in the workplace. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from St. Bonaventure University and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois. In addition to being certified as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Mandie is also a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200) and is working on her RYT 500.