SCARBOROUGH — Town & Country Federal Credit Union has become one of the first organizations in Maine to introduce a new employee mental health benefit. Partnering with UNUM Behavioral Health, the new benefit offers all Town & Country staff and their immediate family members age 18 and older free access to a variety of mental health and wellness solutions, programs, and resources.
Recognizing that the past two plus years have added additional stress, anxiety and depression among people of all ages, Town & Country proactively pursued finding something to not only help employees and family members currently struggling but to offer multiple options to help staff potentially prevent or mitigate mental health and wellness challenges in the future.
According to Betsy St. Pierre, human resources manager at Town & Country FCU, who was part of the team that suggested and, ultimately, implemented the new benefit, “Mental health is on the top of the list of challenges in the day to day workplace. The first barrier I would always get to is ‘I can’t afford it,’ And that’s really sad if somebody needs help and can’t afford it. We’re getting the tools in their hands that they need to manage their mental health on their own. This is available to all employees whether they participate in our health insurance plan or not, and insurance is not involved.”
Since it was first launched as part of the credit union’s recognition of May’s designation as ‘Mental Health Awareness’ month, more than 40 percent of TCFCU’s staff have already signed up for the new benefit and feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive with St. Pierre adding, “Throughout the organization, staff have been both surprised that this is now available at no charge and really appreciative that it is. It’s been really exciting to roll it out and hear the reaction from staff.”
Maxime Guillaume, associate vice president of workplace wellness and general manager of UNUM Behavioral Health, which administers the program, explained, “We’re all in a different place on the mental health spectrum over the course of the year. One month we’re doing great, and another month we’re facing more challenges. Maine is facing a shortage of therapists, which can make getting help for anxiety, depression and other mood disorders more difficult.” St. Pierre agreed, noting, “The struggle is, it’s just difficult to find a counselor that’s accepting patients and being able to get an appointment and by the time that they do, they’re really needing that appointment like tomorrow, yesterday, last week.”
“You lose people along the way if you think about the lifecycle of starting to seek out help which is the most important first step. If you’re asking people to wait weeks and weeks, you might lose the motivation along the way,” Guillaume said. “If you can compress that time period, you can help ensure that people are getting the support that they need.”
UNUM Behavioral Health said the program it provides and is offered by Town & Country includes three different support “pathways”:
• Self-paced programs with exercises that help people identify symptoms and triggers of stress, and build strategies to prevent them.
• A coaching program through an app: it combines chat-based coach and peer support, virtual workshops, and more
• A 12-week treatment program, also through an app, for people dealing with depression, burnout, and anxiety, with support from licensed clinicians
St. Pierre said she looks forward to more employees and their families benefiting from the new benefit, if only to check-in. “We go for physicals every year. Why don’t we spend time on our mental health on a regular basis?” St. Pierre said. “You need to take care of yourself so you can take care of others. I think being among the first employers to offer such a comprehensive benefit, in partnership with UNUM Behavioral Health, says a lot about how Town & Country values its employees and their overall well-being.”
As Maine’s second largest credit union with nearly 40,000 members, Town & Country is a full-service financial institution offering a wide range of financial products and services to people who live, work, go to school or worship in Cumberland and York Counties. The only Maine credit union designated by Forbes as one of the ‘Best Credit Unions in Maine’ in three out of the past five years, the credit union has $515 million in assets, and is part of the largest branch network in the country. To learn more, visit http://www.tcfcu.com.