Employee Mental Health?

There’s an app for that.

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Jeremy Fischbach launched the emotional wellness app Happy in 2018, with the goal of bringing 24-7 mental health outreach to peer groups across the United States. Created in New Orleans, the company recently earned recognition from the New Orleans Business Alliance for its work in alleviating social isolation.

Everyone needs emotional support. We have callers of all ages, races, every possible struggle of life.

— Jeremy Fischbach CEO and Founder of Happy

After a challenging year when extraordinary levels of stress became a part of daily life for so many, more employers are looking for new ways to help address their employees’ mental health and productivity, and now, there’s an app for that, and it was created right here in our region.

Called simply “Happy,” this new mental health wellness app aims to reach individuals, businesses and employers, musicians, healthcare workers, and nonprofits working to improve the quality of people’s lives.

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The company behind the peer-support app was recently announced as the winner of the New Orleans Business Alliance’s Health Innovators Challenge for its work in alleviating social isolation. The title came with a prize of $36,000 the company intends to use toward expanding its national markets even further.

Founder and CEO Jeremy Fischbach launched Happy at the end of 2018, after a long period of testing, adjusting and development.

“A lot of work had been done before [the app was meaningfully launched to the public],” he said. “We spent a good year building out all the underlying tech. For us the more time-consuming piece has been building out a national network of peers.”

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Happy maintains an extended group of “support givers” who provide a 24-7 network of peers with backgrounds in mental health, counseling or social work. A conversation with a support giver is just a phone call away for subscribers, who pay $12 for every 30 minutes of interaction after an initial free trial call.

The demand for mental healthcare was high even before the pandemic. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, “Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults aged 18 or older (18.3% of the population or 44.7 million people) reported a mental illness in 2016. In addition, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious.”

Mental health challenges have been proven to affect an employee’s productivity, contribute to additional time off, and increase medical insurance costs, which Happy noted leads to $500 billion in lost productivity.

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Fischbach, who moved to New Orleans in 2014, counts the extended network of support givers he has formed as something more than employees, in addition to the close-knit team of professionals that helped to develop and grow the company from the beginning.

“We have several thousand support givers that have made it through the vetting process; at any time, a couple hundred are active, depending on what time of day it is, or if we have recently added a new mental health partnership. It is a challenging logistical operation. It’s a little like Uber, except there’s no geographical constraint.”

Happy currently has partnerships with multiple healthcare providers and nonprofits including Centene/WellCare — the largest managed Medicaid plan in the country — to support their largest plan in Florida as they respond to the ongoing pandemic; the American Nurses Association, to help with their effort to support frontline workers; Mental Health America; and the American Heart Association.

Support givers receive specialized training and continuing education as Happy partners with new providers, for example receiving information on how to aid nurses on the front line who have been dealing with the effects of the pandemic on patients in the emergency room and beyond. Additionally, support givers must maintain a high rating of emotional response in order to continue to provide care to callers, an easy, yet still difficult metric to achieve, according to Fischbach.

“Increasingly, as Happy expands from direct-to-consumer to more of a business-to-business strategy — working with hospitals, insurance companies and assisted living facilities — we have increased the threshold of experience. Now, all of our support givers have to have a background in health care, as social workers or nurses. Some have crisis line support experience. The unique part of the process is the evaluation on how emotionally supportive someone is, and we only hire those that score in the top 10%. Happy has a unique mission to create the largest group of the most emotionally supportive people in the country. Support givers have to maintain a high rating of 4.75 out of 5. After thousands of calls, we have an average rating of 4.8.”

Fischbach said the company’s client list continues to become more diverse.

“Everyone needs emotional support,” he said. “We have callers of all ages, races, every possible struggle of life. As we partner with new organizations, we educate our support givers on any potential issues that might arrive. For example, we are doing specific trainings for a partnership we are building with the Indian Health Services to provide help for tribes, and so we have training on cultural competency and other issues.”

For employers, Fischbach said providing employees with tailored mental health support can mean the difference between having a workforce that is stagnant and having a team of people who are motivated to work, be productive and are overall healthier and happier.

Happy works with employers to tailor services to their unique company needs, number of employees and emotional IQ goals. Services include offering access to the app for 24-7 support for a set period of time, from one month to one year or more; workshops to help a company address goals regarding the desired workplace culture; and assessments on employers and employees and what they need to do to accomplish desired workplace changes. Prices are built upon each company’s size, goals and services used.

“Right now, people can work in a lot of different places; back in the day, your job just paid your bills,” he said. “More and more employees are expecting — given how much time we spend at work — for our job to satisfy that need for [a fulfillment of overall well-being] too. A supportive culture is where employees are taught to better support each other. That’s a place people will want to work. Plus, in terms of the bottom line, you can ask more of your employees [because they know you support them].”

 

The Happy app relies on the skills of thousands of trained “support givers” that provide personalized assistance over the phone in a wide array of common stressors. The cost to users is $12 per 30 minutes, but employers can request a tailor made plan that meets the needs of their employees.

 

By the Numbers
Mental health issues can greatly affect businesses and their employees.
Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect:
• Employee job performance and productivity;
• Engagement with one’s work;
• Communication with coworkers; and
• Physical capability and daily functioning.
According to Happy:
86% of users of the app felt less anxious after calls
93% felt happier after call
45% reported immediate improvement in mood.
Source: CDC

 

To find out more about Happy, visit HappytheMovement.com

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