Since March when the Covid-19 outbreak spread across the globe, the mental health of workers has been put to the test in ways we’ve never before seen.
Many people who were previously quite mentally resilient, are now less able to cope because of the multiple stressors which we’re now facing. “The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress” Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s mental health department has stressed.
There is a general decline of mental health amongst workers
Data released by Qualtrics looking at 2500 respondents across Europe and the US shows the severity of increased mental health problems workers are facing:
- 7% of people report higher levels of stress since the outbreak of COVID-19.
- 57% say they have greater anxiety since the outbreak.
- 54% say they are more emotionally exhausted.
- 53% say they feel sadness day-to-day.
- 50% feel they are more irritable.
- 42% report their overall mental health has declined
Addiction, Depressive Disorder and PTSD on the rise
Working Americans’ risk of addiction, depressive disorder and PTSD has doubled between February and April 2020, according to The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition powered by Total Brain in partnership with One Mind at Work. Data shows that the marked spike in declining mental health corresponds with the rise in U.S. COVID-19 cases.
Launch of The Mental Health Index
The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition is the first index of its kind to be launched since the beginning of the health crisis. Results to be measured and reported monthly in an ongoing series, from May 2020 on.
“We launched The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition to enable the public and corporations to measure mental health progress and performance against a valid national benchmark,” explained Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain. “Our findings shed a light on the growing need for strong workplace mental health support during these unpredictable times and beyond.”
While employers are grappling with plans for staged returns to work for employees putting health and safety concerns first, it’s important that regular data is available to measure how the mental health conditions of workers are improving, or lessening. This way companies can further assess a bigger, longer term picture of how work environments of the future made need to change permanently. As the reality is, we’re still facing the potential of another upsurge in Covid-19 cases with the arrival of autumn and winter over the year ahead.
The Mental Health Index will be a crucial tool to provide ongoing public insights for companies to follow.
We must collectively transform support for mental health and addiction for the future
“Findings from The Mental Health Index underscore the importance of bringing leaders together to transform approaches to mental health and addiction and effectively promote mental health as important as physical health,” said Garen Staglin, Chairman, One Mind. “One Mind at Work’s growing global coalition of companies and organizations are committed to transforming approaches to mental health and addiction for employees and the Total Brain platform will help employers better equip their employees with mental health resources.”
The good news is employers have been incredibly responsive to the increased mental health vulnerability of staff, with many companies adopting staff mental health support for the first time and others pushing forward sign off processes at record speed for remote (e.g. webinars, online training) or digital mental health and wellbeing support (e.g. apps, telehealth, teletherapies). Let’s hope this is one of the positive, lasting outcomes of the difficult period we’re all facing, that workplace mental health becomes mainstream.
About the author
Heather Kelly is the founder of Aura Wellbeing, a consultancy providing workplace wellness strategy, coaching and training services to employers. She’s also Content Director for Make a Difference Summit US and Online Editor for Make a Difference News. Heather led the development and operation of the Workplace Wellbeing Index, during her time working for the UK’s largest mental health charity, Mind. In her earlier career she worked as a photographer, a journalist and a senior manager in the insurance industry. She’s passionate about inspiring more empathy and awareness in workplaces toward normalising mental health and in her spare time Heather teaches photography to teens as part of a charity projects in London and Spain, she’s an avid runner and experimental chef for recipes promoting healthy minds.