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July 15, 2020

Helping Employers Address Mental Illness

Helping employers address mental illness in the workplace though a unique initiative by Independent Health and Horizon Health Services

Increasingly, even before our current societal challenges, employers are seeking to retain and ensure a productive workforce by addressing overall health and wellness, which includes mental health concerns experienced by one in five adults, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“We know only 40 percent of those with mental illness seek help, in part, because they are uncertain how their condition will be viewed at work, so they may suffer alone while feeling unsupported, misunderstood or concerned of being labeled and stigmatized,” said George Burnett, M.D., Medical Director, Behavioral Health, Independent Health. “The good news is mental illness is treatable and employers want to demonstrate a culture that is caring, knowledgeable and supportive.”

To address this need and opportunity, Independent Health has partnered with Horizon Health Services to help employers recognize the signs of mental illness, understand what the employee is dealing with and respond appropriately during what may be a difficult conversation.

“Horizon Health Services is honored to partner with Independent Health on this important initiative by bringing education and awareness regarding mental health to the workplace. Employers have an essential role in supporting their teams with education and creating an open dialogue with readily available resources and treatment options. Talking about stress management, self-care and mental health in the workplace can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Education is critical as we seek to improve mental health in our community,” said Anne Constantino, President & CEO, Horizon Health Services.

Through this partnership, a comprehensive online and in-person approach has been developed to help employers create a workplace that supports mental health with training for leaders that includes:

  1. Learning about what they might see, how they play a role, how to recognize and manage a workplace issue, and available resources
  2. Recognizing the signs of mental illness and feel comfortable having a conversation with employees
  3. In-depth understanding around three of the most significant issues: depression and anxiety, substance abuse and suicide prevention.
  4. Discussion on the mind-body connection and the important role exercise and nutrition play.
  5. Giving leaders the comfort and encouragement they need to recognize, understand and respond with compassion and effectiveness.

Resources and in-person educational seminars are also available directly for employees to increase awareness and provide education, resources, and support to further develop a caring, inclusive workplace culture.

This comprehensive program, or Mental Health Toolkit, was first shared throughout Independent Health, including with 162 managers and approximately 300 associates who have participated in online sessions to date.

Beginning in April 2020, this program is also being offered to Independent Health Self-Funded and FitWorks Prime employer groups engaged in our worksite wellness programing. For example, Erie 2 BOCES is offering employees mental health educational seminars.

Independent Health, which employs a comprehensive team of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, mental health nurses, social workers, licensed counselors and case managers familiar with the mental health landscape, is dedicated to helping our members and community obtain timely, individualized and effective evidence-based care for mental health issues or substance use disorders as part of our mission to help them get and stay healthy.

About Horizon Health Services

Horizon Health Services provides hope and healing for individuals and their families dealing with mental health and substance use disorders. And the stakes have never been higher. The diseases of mental illness and addiction impact families in every neighborhood of our community.

Horizon is recognized as an industry leader and patient advocate, providing:

  • Care to help individuals and families improve their health.
  • Comprehensive treatment, including medical, psychiatric, counseling and support services.
  • Support that makes recovery possible.
  • Hope to change and save lives.

To learn more, go online to

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