Today, many CHROs don't know just how impactful the pandemic has been on their employees' mental health. While mental health has always been an important topic, research shows that it's more important than ever to take action.
This can be done by destigmatizing mental health in the workplace and offer the right help and support for employees who need it to prevent and recover from mental issues.
In fact, Mental Health in America reports that 47.1 million (19%) people in the U.S. live with a mental health condition (an increase of 1.5 million compared to last year's report) and more than half a million people have reported signs of anxiety and/or depression. Even more, 70% of people reported that loneliness or isolation was the top contributing factor to mental health issues.
Here's everything you need to know about mental wellness and the impact COVID has had on it since the start of the pandemic.
WHAT IS MENTAL WELLNESS?
The Global Wellness Institute defines mental wellness as "an internal resource that helps us think, feel, connect, and function; it is an active process that helps us build resilience, grow, and flourish."
Essentially, this means that when you are mentally well, you are being functional, feeling good about yourself and your life, experiencing positive relationships and social life, and feeling fulfilled.
Although it is often interchanged with mental health, mental wellness is slightly different because it focuses more on your sense of self and how closely you're living your life in your best interest. This means that you're able to positively contribute to your life, community, and job productively.
On the other hand, if you're not mentally well for a significant period of time, you'll notice that you develop and experience mental health issues in response. Likewise, if you already have mental health issues, it is common to have periods where your mental wellness isn't where it should be.
THE PERMANENT IMPACT OF COVID
Despite people's best wishes/hopes, COVID has changed mental wellness forever. Not only has most of the population battled the physical health constraints of COVID but there is also a significant toll on your emotional state and mental health that has resulted from the pandemic.
In fact, a 2021 State of Mental Health in America (MHA) report confirmed this permanent impact. It isn't just the risk of getting the virus that has proven to be traumatizing.
"Our physical and social environments have changed as well, leading to greater rates of isolation and loneliness, financial hardship, housing, and food insecurity, and interpersonal violence," MHA explains in its recent report. "Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequities and injustices faced primarily by black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the United States."
Alone, any of these resulting factors could have a negative impact on an individual's mental health and wellness, "but in combination, they have created a nationwide mental health crisis."
Most notably, this disaster wasn't concentrated in just one small portion of the population. Instead, this widespread impact has affected the entire country — better yet, the entire world. So, not only has the pandemic had a physical and mental attack on health and wellness, but it has become so widespread that most of the population has been affected by it in some way or another.
THE GROWING CRISIS
From new COVID variants to the changing working environment forever, we are far from putting this crisis behind us and moving on. As much as we all would like to forget the pandemic and 'get back to normal,' there is no going back to pre-COVID times.
The world has already changed and shifted so much as a result, and mental health and wellness are among the top factors to be heavily influenced.
Adults are seeing a rise in suicide ideation and stress, anxiety, and depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40.9% of people reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition to the pandemic.
This includes symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), symptoms of trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic (26.3%), and 11% seriously considered suicide.
The crisis isn't limited to adults, either. Studies are showing a substantial impact on our youth as well. In fact, Healthline reports that one in three adolescents will meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder by 18.
What does this mean for your employees?
The crisis is likely to continue growing, making it essential to invest in your employees today with Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that focus on mental health. The truth is, today's working-class isn’t the only generation being affected by the pandemic. Research is showing an impact throughout all ages — meaning a solution for right now is not enough. You will need a solution for the many years to come to support your current, potential, and future employees.
With that being said, when your employees have access to the right support and resources needed to overcome their mental health and wellness struggles, they are in a better position to recover. Even more, they can prevent problems from arising or getting worse.
Discuss Your Options With Employee Recovery
There's no doubt that an EAP program can certainly make a difference for your business and employees. However, it's important to note that not everyone struggles with the same mental health issues or needs the same treatments and support to overcome them. You must consider your employees specifically — through regular discussions and feedback/reviews — before choosing your EAP program package.
Furthermore, you will need to regularly update and modify your package to ensure it encompasses the most recent mental health issues and struggles (like the effects of racial injustice). This way, you can rest assured that your employees always have access to everything they need to maintain a healthy physical and mental wellbeing.
Employee Recovery can work closely with you and your team to develop the right EAP program for your business and employees, destigmatizing mental health in the workplace and improving mental wellbeing among the vast majority of the working class.
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