Overcoming Mental Health Stigma at MACRCBF

Jul 26, 2022

By The Lyra Team

As mental health becomes a pillar of workplace benefit programs, the work doesn’t stop with open enrollment. Cultural barriers to care need to be proactively addressed. Mental health stigma is particularly pervasive in more traditional professions, from “deskless” employees in construction and manufacturing to professional service industries like finance and law. Human Resource (HR) leaders in these industries must tackle stigma and associated shame around seeking treatment for everything from substance use disorder to suicidal ideation.

In June 2022, Kendall Browne, PhD, program manager with Lyra’s Workforce Transformation team, spoke with Kristina Guastaferri, executive director of the Mid-American Carpenters Regional Council Benefits Funds (MACRCBF) about how to facilitate a cultural shift to ensure a mental health benefit can drive meaningful impact. The MACRCBF is the Benefit administrator for one of the largest regional labor unions in the U.S., with a membership of more than 52,000 workers across Illinois, Kansas, and Eastern Iowa.

Here are the key takeaways:

1. Invest in a mental health solution that people use

Prior to Lyra, the MACRCBF had an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that its members were not using. Ultimately they decided to work with Lyra based on our ability to be an agile partner, offer health-plan integration to preserve continuity of care when needed, and continuously improve our network and member experience. Guastaferri said, “No matter what we did [with our previous EAP], we could not increase engagement and no communications plan helped. This told us that people were going outside the EAP to seek help.”  

2. Identify natural advocates within your workforce to be mental health ambassadors

Guastaferri’s tactic to find these ambassadors was simple but effective. She said, “Although I can talk at length about all the resources available, I felt that it was necessary for the carpenters to hear from other carpenters. So at those business leaders’ meetings, I put out a call to help. I said, ‘I know that there are people in this audience today that have been on the dark side and been able to overcome their addictions, their mental health concerns. And I need to hear from you.’ I had one person come up to me immediately. His name was Rusty and he said, ‘I’ve been a recovering alcoholic for 27 years. What do you need me to do?’”

3. Leverage these ambassadors to drive grassroots conversations about mental health 

Mental health ambassadors can be great catalysts for culture change. Guastaferri‘s team identified mental health ambassadors by simply stating the need for a few people to share how getting help had changed their lives. She and her team worked to produce very powerful video testimonials that they share with their members, in an effort to reduce the stigma around asking for help. During the webinar, she shared David Osborne’s story

Cultural barriers can be challenging to overcome, but benefits leaders shouldn’t feel alone in tackling them. We hope you have the opportunity to watch these carpenter testimonials and are inspired to think about how you can partner with your own employees to showcase how mental health care has changed their lives.

Check out member stories at MACRCBF here.

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