Since 1949, the month of May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month. 1 in 5 adults suffer from a form of mental illness, affecting both their personal and professional lives. This month is an opportunity to provide support and resources for those struggling, while also fighting the negative stigma surrounding mental illness. It is also a time, as an employer, to assess how your organization considers the wellbeing of your employees, especially when it pertains to mental health support.

Employee assistance and benefits

Adina Goldman, Partner at Green Key Resources and Head of Corporate Human Resources, mentions the importance of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). “EAPs offer a wide variety of resources to employees, including those pertaining to mental health. Mental health resources through the EAP include counseling and therapy provided by licensed mental health professionals, in addition to general support for maintaining one’s mental health as it relates to work and home life. A significant component to an EAP is confidentiality,” she adds. “It’s important for employees to understand that engagement with the program is confidential, which we hope will encourage them to feel comfortable taking advantage of the resources offered.” Because EAPs are accessed online, employees are able to seek treatment in a private manner at home and on their own time.

Wellness programs and acceptance

In addition to medical benefits, Adina also recommends that your organization hold wellness webinars. “These webinars are great because they afford employees the opportunity to engage with one another over a topic of mutual interest,” she says. “This type of experience creates room for connection and relationship building among employees who may not otherwise interact with one another, which we hope will help foster a greater sense of community within the organization.” In addition to mental health awareness, topics of wellness webinars might include work life balance, financial management, sleep management, and exercise and nutritional tips. 

“Another key component to offering EAPs and wellness webinars is encouraging, and not forcing, participation,” Adina emphasizes. “Mental health and wellness in general can be aspects to an employee’s life that are very private, and it’s important to be respectful of personal preferences. Some employees may be very open to discussing and engaging on these topics in group settings, while others may prefer to address them privately. We’re advocates for participation in the programs that we offer, but we understand that each employee has a different comfort level. This is why diversifying the programs offered is so beneficial. It creates a greater opportunity for employees to engage in whichever way that is meaningful and comfortable for them.” 

Making the effort

Working professionals want to know that their employer is willing to take care of them, as many are prioritizing their mental well-being before money and success. Mental health can affect all aspects of a person’s life, and this includes their productivity at work. As an organization, you want to create an accepting and inclusive environment, where your employees can easily access helpful resources, while also feeling comfortable doing so. Together, through education, supportive programs, and open conversations, we can end the stigma and remember the value we each hold. 

Jun 6, 2023

New Group Will Promote Decentralized Clinical Trials

Several of the world’s healthcare, bioscience and pharmaceutical firms, including such global leaders as AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Biogen have joined together to accelerate the adoption of decentralized clinical trials and research.

In the planning stage before the coronavirus pandemic, the Decentralized Trials & Research Alliance (DTRA) formally announced its founding this month. With an initial membership of some 50 organizations, the alliance declared its mission to “make clinical trial participation widely accessible by advancing policies, research practices and new technologies in decentralized clinical research.”

Explained Amir Kalali, MD, co-convenor of DTRA, “The benefits of decentralized research methodologies have been apparent for some time, but adoption has been slow due to many factors including culture and the lack of a forum for stakeholders to collaborate.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations to adopt decentralized methodologies which have the potential to broadly accelerate drug development.”

Decentralized trials, also (imprecisely) referred to as virtual trials, allow patients to participate without the need to regularly or ever visit a research site. Through telemedicine visits, remote monitoring, wearables and smartphones, researchers can often collect as much or more data in many cases, and often more reliable data, than by requiring in-person visits.

Several months ago we blogged about the increasing use of decentralized trials – those that are entirely remote and those that include occasional face-to-face visits. In that June post we noted that “prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and given the blessing of the FDA, broad acceptance of decentralized trials is becoming a reality.”

Speaking at the virtual BIO 2020 conference, panelists agreed that the foothold COVID gave to decentralized trials will continue to grow, in large part because of its patient benefits. With participants freed from having to travel to research sites, it opens opportunities to recruit underrepresented populations. One example, cited by a panelist, was the potential now to include autistic patients.

DTRA, in its founding announcement, said, “Inclusion of representative patient populations in clinical trials by race, age, and geographic location has long been an operational challenge. Decentralized approaches to conducting research facilitate participation by a more diverse patient population and could ease COVID-19-imposed difficulties for both patients and clinical investigators.”

Added Craig Lipset, DTRA co-convener, “Now is the time to share ideas and insights that will chart the future course of clinical trials, accelerating drug development and saving lives.”

Image by PublicDomainPictures