Oklahoma City, OK
Number of Employees
Chesapeake Energy Corporation Educates Physician Community about Mental Health
Chesapeake Energy Corporation, based in Oklahoma City, approaches mental health through a variety of communication, educational, and programmatic means.
The company’s increased effort arose in late 2009 after the community lost several prominent members to suicide. Chesapeake leaders reasoned that a significant number of the company’s then 10,000 employees might be facing serious emotional stress, especially given the challenge of an economic downturn. The company decided it needed to go beyond including mental health parity in its health coverage and actively engage workers in learning about and caring for their mental health.
The company developed “Your Life Matters,” an award-winning communication campaign aimed at employees. They added a depression screening tool (based on the PHQ-9) to their health risk assessment and asked those indicating risks if the employee assistance program could contact them. Placing responsibility on the EAP to reach out rather than relying on struggling employees to do so dramatically increased program results.
The program also instituted round-the-clock phone contacts, manager training, and expanded coverage to its legal, financial, child-care, and elder-care services.
Chesapeake Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Martha Burger and CEO Aubrey McClendon appeared in a video to launch the program and explained that “Your Life Matters” would address needs that traditional programs hadn’t been able to address.
The company didn’t stop there. They bring recognized speakers on campus to speak to employees about their own personal struggles and how they overcame their emotional difficulties. In March, singer Marie Osmond spoke to employees about how she sought help for postpartum depression and coping with the aftermath of the suicide of one of her children.
The singer’s appearance was part of a daylong series of events for both employees and the local medical community.
Osmond and Psychiatric News Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., addressed primary care clinicians of all kinds at an evening meeting. Borenstein is also the host of the PBS series “Healthy Minds.”
“About 400 physicians, therapists, and other members of the health care community along with their spouses participated in a very informative, educational, clinically enlightening, and enjoyable [program],” said psychiatrist R. Murali Krishna, M.D., president of INTEGRIS Mental Health and president-elect of the Oklahoma State Board of Health. “There is no doubt there will be increased awareness of clinical depression by primary care physicians and other medical specialists.” Krishna has worked with Chesapeake on the “Your Life Matters” campaign.
“We told our listeners that they are the first line of defense for mental illness,” said Borenstein, who appeared on behalf of the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health. “Patients have to be screened for depression, anxiety, and chemical dependency, and clinicians need to be informed that there are good tools to help with diagnosis and monitoring, even when they are pressed for time.”
In a separate video interview with the Daily Oklahoman newspaper, Borenstein sought to allay the stigma that often gets in the way of seeking treatment for mental health issues, emphasizing that there is no reason to suffer in silence. “Treatment is effective,” he pointed out.
He reiterated for the general audience that treatment could include not only medication, but talk therapy, exercise, proper sleep habits, and diet — “treating the whole person.”
“The event with Marie Osmond and Jeff Borenstein is but one example of Chesapeake Energy’s investment in promoting overall wellness,” Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Terry Cline, Ph.D., the former head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, told Psychiatric News. “As a large business, it is apparent that Chesapeake understands that an investment in the mental health of its employees is a good bottom-line investment,” said Cline, who attended the event.
About Chesapeake Energy Corporation
Founded over 20 years ago, Chesapeake Energy has grown into a top producer of oil and natural gas in the United States. The company has nearly 10,000 employees, with a large headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and smaller settings across 17 states, primarily in the Southeast.
Aaron Levin is a senior staff writer for Psychiatric News.
Note: this article was adapted from the May 4, 2012 issue of Psychiatric News.