Canadians have weathered two waves of the coronavirus pandemic and are now working their way through the third. But what happens when the fourth wave — of psychological trauma, economic injury and burnout — arrives?

One half of Canadians said they’d experienced worsening mental-health challenges during the pandemic, according to an April 2020 poll by the Angus Reid Institute — well up from the one in five who said they dealt with a mental-health issue pre-pandemic.

In Ontario alone, 74 per cent of provincial residents said they were experiencing increased mental-health and addiction challenges during the pandemic, 30 per cent were at high risk and 19 per cent were at moderate risk, according to Everything is Not OK, a campaign by provincial mental-health and addiction organizations including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Children’s Mental Health Ontario and the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario.

Read: What you don’t know about your employee assistance program

“Are we equipped to deal with this?” asked Roee Ben-Eli, mental-health program manager at EQ Care, which was recently acquired by Telus Health, during Benefits Canada’s 2021 Tech Insights: Spring Edition conference in late April. “Are organizations ready? Do they have the tools to take their employees and ensure their resilience and ability to be productive in the next three to four years?”

That’s where EQ Care and SEB Administrative Services Inc.’s new employee assistance program, LifeJourney, comes in. The solution gives plan members access to a broad range of EAP services all on one platform.

From the beginning of the pandemic, SEB knew it would be important to listen to plan sponsors about the changes they and their plan members were experiencing, said Meaghan Cole, vice-president of product and solutions at SEB.

“What became apparent early on [in the pandemic] was the burden people were feeling from constant change. They were worrying about their family members and their health and the changing dynamics at home with everyone under one roof. As COVID continues, we can see direct results on workplace productivity and engagement.”

SEB partnered with EQ Care to create its new solution, which can be fully integrated into its FlexPlus suite of benefits solutions.  

Read: SEB, EQ Care partnering on virtual employee assistance program

When the companies partnered up, they knew access to their solution needed to be “effortless,” said Cole, so employees didn’t need to remember multiple passwords or navigate to several different sites to get the help they needed.

LifeJourney offers plan members services that span physical health, mental health, work-life balance and well-being. They can access doctors and nurses 24/7 and the platform also offers various mental-health services, including guided digital cognitive behavioural therapy they can access at any time of day, modular mental-health programs with clinician guidance and face-to-face online therapy.

When users enter the site they complete an intake questionnaire before being connected with a care advocate specially trained in the type of care they need, such as a psychologist, social worker or nurse. The care advocate makes sure the plan member’s acute issue is addressed, but also makes sure any other issues are being taken care of, such as connecting them with financial or legal advice, nutrition counselling or other life tools. They also help plan members schedule their appointments.

Read: Evaluating the value of employee assistance programs

“If somebody’s coming on during a divorce or just a crisis that they’re presently dealing with, the care advocate will continue to ask questions to make sure other issues are also addressed,” said Ben-Eli. “‘Do you need financial, do you need legal assistance? How have you been eating? How have you been sleeping?’ That’s really a big differentiator with LifeJourney — the human touch of compassion, consistency and confidentiality.”

LifeJourney is meant to be “not just reactive and acute, it’s also preventative and proactive,” he said, noting the plan member receives a care plan that lasts beyond the acute phase and involves check-ins with their care advocate to ensure the user is getting what they need. “We want people to use it and use it often.” 

The service can also be integrated with plan members’ existing benefits offerings to boost employee usage and SEB and EQ Care can also provide reporting modules that help plan sponsors pivot their services to meet the needs of their employees.

Read more articles from the 2021 Tech Insights: Spring Edition conference.