Should Your Company Provide Mental Health Apps to Employees?

hbr.org
6 min read
fairly difficult
Guidelines to help HR managers think through the decision.
A plethora of mental health apps are flooding the market, but there is little evidence to support many of their claims of effectiveness. This article offers guidelines for helping HR managers decide whether to provide them to employees. It offers answers to three questions: (1) Should my company offer access to mental health apps? (2) What is the best app I can offer my employees to help them manage stress or anxiety? (3) How do I evaluate the economic impact of a digital health mental health product?

Thanks to the pandemic, there is heightened interest in new effective options for preventing and treating anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric illnesses. Human resources managers are looking for new ways to support their employees. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) suggests that the mental health of younger people and minorities has been especially impacted.

In the last 12 months, our research team at the division of digital psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, fielded a dramatic increase in questions related to digital mental health, specifically digital mental health apps. Here are three of the most common questions that arose in conversations with physicians, senior executives, and HR managers, and our answers, which are based on our experiences in clinical care, clinical research studies, and industry analysis.

1. Should my company offer access to mental health apps?

The best thing you can do for your employees is to offer them robust health care coverage at a reasonable price. This coverage should include comprehensive mental health care that makes face-to-face therapy with a licensed clinician affordable and accessible. A mental health app on its own is not an equal substitute. That's because to date, there isn't evidence that self-help apps are as effective as therapy or medication in treating mental illness. But they may be able to help some people better cope…
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