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“Mental health issues are skyrocketing because we have been forced into a new normal overnight. Employee burnout was already costing American companies up to USD 190 billion every year pre-COVID-19, and the resulting increase in stress and anxiety will cause this to only increase. Companies must take a proactive approach to mental health to protect their most important asset, their workforce, and maintain productivity. It is certainly an area worth investing in,” suggests Alyson Friedensohn, CEO & Founder, Modern Health.

Modern Health is a service provider at the marcus evans Employee Benefits & Compensation Summit 2020.

What prompted you to start a mental wellness platform?

A few years ago, I moved to Silicon Valley with a plan to start my own company, something I have always wanted to do. It was a complete disaster! Within two weeks I had spent all my money on a security deposit, my apartment flooded, my boyfriend at the time broke up with me, and I lost my job. It was a really difficult time in my life. I ended up calling 40 different therapists until I finally connected to one who was taking on new patients and who agreed to a sliding scale payment structure that I could afford, and I still see that person to this day. It was the support system I had in place that allowed me to persevere and be resilient through those difficulties. I realized how important it is for everyone to build that resilience and have a support system, but I also realized not everyone had access to the mental health resources and support system like I did. That was the inspiration behind Modern Health. My mission is to democratize access to mental health for all.

Why should mental health be a priority now more than ever?

It was not so long ago that people did not have access to technology and focused on their family. As human beings, on a biological level, we are pretty much the same as we were thousands of years ago. In other words, we are running a V1 operating system in a V1000 world. While technology has created amazing opportunities and massive advancements in our lives, it has also impacted the way we live. It is pretty recent to us that in a matter of 30 seconds we can go through feeling jealousy, sadness, happiness and anxiety just by scrolling through our phone on a social media app or even emails. On a neurological level, we have not actually built the neural pathways that allow us to be resilient to that kind of stress. The pandemic is only accelerating this way of living. We are social creatures, but all of a sudden we are home and even more tethered to technology than ever before.

Mental health issues are skyrocketing. This pandemic and associated restrictions happened almost overnight. It has accelerated the need for us to figure out how to live and thrive in this new world and build resilience. That comes in the form of engaging in our mental health. We do not know how long this will last, how it will change the workplace and if it will happen again in our lifetime. The support we provide around mental health will impact the future of our workforce.

Does prioritizing the mental wellbeing of the workforce impact the bottom line? 

Taking a proactive approach to mental health will absolutely benefit a company’s bottom line. Mental health issues, when left untreated, can have a huge impact on output and productivity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health issues in the workplace are responsible for a trillion dollar loss in global productivity every year. The WHO also found that every USD 1 spent in treating common mental disorders yields USD 4 in improved health and productivity. Human capital is the number one asset for employers, but right now, most are not effectively protecting the quality of that asset.

What role should business leaders take to destigmatize mental health issues? As a CEO how do you take care of your own mental health?

We have to make sure that the conversation of mental health starts from the very top. Mental health has a stigma around it with people assuming it means depression or weakness. People do not typically think of successful leaders as individuals who can struggle with mental health, but they can and do. I would not be here today if it was not for my therapist, coach and couples therapist.

Seeing a therapist does not mean something is wrong or broken. It is about building a good foundation to get through difficult times. It is about building strength and a growth mindset. It starts by being very vocal and vulnerable. It is normal to say we visit the dentist, why can’t we say we see a therapist or a coach? The best leaders are those who other people not only respect, but also feel personally connected to.

Ahead of the marcus evans Employee Benefits & Compensation Summit 2020read here an interview with Alyson Friedensohn discussing why organizations need to take a preventative approach and protect the mental health of their workforce

Alyson Friedensohn

CEO & Founder

Modern Health

Why Companies Must Make the Mental Health of their Human Capital a Top Priority

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About the Employee Benefits & Compensation Summit 2020

The Employee Benefits & Compensation Summit is the premium forum bringing together senior benefits executives and service providers in an intimate environment for a focused discussion of the key new drivers shaping the industry. The Summit includes presentations on total rewards and plan design, compensation and benefit best practices, employee engagement and communication techniques, and financial wellness and retirement readiness.

Copyright © 2020 Marcus Evans. All rights reserved.

About Modern Health

Modern Health is the comprehensive mental wellness platform that combines the WHO well-being assessment, self-service wellness kits, an international network of certified coaches, and licensed therapists available in 35 languages all available in a single app. Modern Health empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, destigmatizing the conversation, and increasing accessibility of mental health services for all.

Founded in 2017, Modern Health incorporates evidence-based psychology principles and seamless technology to serve the needs of over 90 companies globally including Pixar, SoFi, Nextdoor, EA, and Rakuten. Headquartered in San Francisco, Modern Health has raised more than $45 million from Founders Fund, Kleiner Perkins, actor Jared Leto, StitchFix CEO Katrina Lake, and 01 Advisors (Dick Costolo and Adam Bain).