Workplace Wellbeing

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

Many countries have multiple barriers to accessing care, including insufficient providers, a lack of culturally appropriate screening tools, and stigma. Find out how we’re eliminating these barriers with a global solution built from the ground up.

Written by
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Mandie Conforti, LCSW
Senior Director of Employer and EAP Strategy
Clinically reviewed by
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    Regardless of where we live, we all fall somewhere on the wide spectrum of mental well-being. 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, impacting how they access care. 

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

    This is why Spring Health is focused on delivering relevant, culturally-responsive care for employees in each country. 

    Addressing global barriers to access to care 

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

    Many countries have 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 health care 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. 

    Time to care is one of the biggest barriers

    About half of the world’s population lives in countries with 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 the time to care for enrolled employees and their families globally by combining our clinically proven technology with high-touch care navigation

    The ability to see a provider within a few days can be truly transformative for someone struggling with their mental health.

    How we talk about mental health matters

    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 viewpoints. 

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

    Here are some approaches to consider for delivering culturally-responsive mental health care:

    • Utilize inclusive and non-stigmatizing language when discussing mental health, emphasizing strengths rather than deficits
    • Organize workshops and training sessions that encourage dialogue and cultivate empathy among employees from diverse backgrounds
    • Leverage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as advocates and valuable sources of feedback for enhancing support
    • Ensure diverse voices and perspectives are represented in awareness campaigns to help employees feel included and represented 

    Spring Health’s member-centered, localized approach 

    Enrolled employees start their mental health journey by taking a locally translated, clinically validated assessment. They then get direct access to qualified local clinicians familiar with their language and cultural norms. 

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

    The assessment: A foundation for better outcomes

    Spring Health’s 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 we must be 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 providing precise recommendations  to each individual.

    The benefits of this approach include:

    • Identifying the right treatment modalities and reducing trial and error
    • Enabling 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. We believe in open access to all our services so members can pursue  therapy, coaching, work-life services, and more.  

    Employees can share their plans with their physician or other providers 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 localized Care Navigator, who is a licensed master’s level clinician. Every Care Navigator is deeply familiar with the challenges, resources, and support systems of their local populations. 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 to ensure the employee is progressing. 

    Care Navigators are available 24/7, providing unlimited support in various ways—including making care recommendations, assessing and de-escalating risk during a crisis, and following up to ensure 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 worsen, their Care Navigator proactively reaches out to see how they can be supported. 

    A strong, diverse global provider network is key

    Spring Health’s thorough provider selection process ensures high-quality care across the globe. We carefully interview all of our mental health providers using a comprehensive seven-step vetting process. This includes assessing their patient-centered approach, use of evidence-based interventions, and attunement to cultural nuances.  

    Cultural sensitivity is key to establishing therapeutic alliance and is essential for successful progress during therapy. 

    To build a strong relationship, the therapist needs to understand their patient’s mental health condition, treatment needs, cultural background, language, religion, lived experience, and gender. This multifaceted approach ensures care is delivered with the utmost sensitivity and effectiveness.

    A diverse provider network is a pivotal factor in achieving this goal. Our network goes beyond demographics, encompassing a broad spectrum of subspecialties, flexible appointment scheduling, and an array of accessible in-person and virtual session options. 

    Let us pave the way for a future where cultural responsiveness is at the forefront of global mental health care. By bridging gaps, dismantling barriers, and embracing inclusivity, we can empower individuals to embark on a journey towards improved well-being and a brighter, more compassionate world. 

    Learn more about how a global mental health solution can benefit your entire workforce. 

    About the Author
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    Mandie Conforti, LCSW
    Senior Director of Employer and EAP Strategy

    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.

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