Mental Health and COVID-19
With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, so is the nation’s stress and anxiety levels. With 1 in 5 Americans already having mental health issues and 1 in 2 Americans at risk for developing them, Mental Health America explains that addressing the mental health effects of COVID-19 are as important as addressing the physical health effects. As cited in a recent Forbes article, Crisis Text Line Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist Bob Filbin stated, “We’re expecting to see increased rates of suicidality, depression, and other mental health issues for 1-2 years – both because of COVID, and because of the downstream economic effects.”
The Employer’s Role
It is clear that all possible measures need to be taken to help employees protect their mental health during this pandemic. As outlined by SHRM, these are the steps employers should be taking to help their employees:
- Lead with a Focus on Wellbeing: When communicating with employees, make it clear that your upmost concern is the health and safety of all employees. Continued operations are important, but it should be addressed as your secondary priority. Be sure that all supervisors and managers are informed of your messaging and that they reinforce it as they communicate with employees.
- Be Transparent: Clear and frequent communication helps relive employees’ anxiety. As you make decisions related to COVID-19, make sure employees are informed. Also, make sure employees know they can reach out to you, supervisors, or managers with any questions or concerns.
- Be Flexible: Many employees are balancing the challenges of caring for children or older adults during a pandemic and working from home. To help alleviate their fear of navigating competing demands, offer support and flexibility when it comes to telecommuting, flex-scheduling, virtual check-ins, etc.
- Encourage Healthy Stress Relief: Whether it is virtual team yoga, walking meetings, afternoon meditations sessions, etc., make it easy for employees to incorporate healthy stress management techniques into their work day.
- Share Resources: With many physical centers for mental health intervention, doctors’ offices, crisis clinics, and school counselor centers only offering limited appointments, or in some cases are closed, it is important you direct employees to other resources. Whether it is telemedicine appointments or tech nonprofits such as Crisis Text Line, Empower Work, and Real Talk, employees need to know they have access to help. Also, consider sharing all the mental health resources made available by Mental Health America.