The dangers of ignoring mental health are real. There was a crisis situation before COVID, and it is now worsening. Mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus between isolation, working from home, financial worries, and future uncertainties. Grieving for social injustices and racial unrests have greatly impacted mental health within our Nation and beyond our borders.
Below are common work-related issues that can add to stress during this difficult time:
- Concern about the risk of being exposed to the virus when working onsite
- Taking care of personal and family needs while working
- Managing a different workload
- Lack of access to the tools and equipment needed to perform the job
- Feelings that you are not contributing enough to work or guilt about not being on the frontline
- Uncertainty about the future of the work and/or employment
- Learning new communication tools and dealing with technical difficulties
- Adapting to a different workspace and/or work schedule
- Dealing with racial and ethnic biases in society and as personal and work lives collide (Prevent Code Switching; Working From Home While Black)
According to Gallop, Americans report the highest levels of stress than other industrialized nations. More than half of employees in the USA report being stressed during the workday, with 83% reporting stress related symptoms.
Worst, according to a recent CSR article, suicide rates in the USA have increased by 31% since 2001. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among ages 10-34 in the USA and the 10th-leading cause of death in general, claiming over 45,000 lives each year. Sadly, LGBTIA, Veterans, and black teens have higher rates of stress, depression and suicide attempts than other groups.
What can we to? For individuals, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of stress and depression and seek help. Managers also need to be educated on signs of depression, stress and anxiety. We are happy to send a summary if you are interested as well as .
Tips and Outside the Box Considerations
Below are a few thoughts for every organization to consider regarding mental health initiatives. If you are tired of hearing this, then perhaps it is time to listen on a deeper level as the most important step next step to take. Remember that our well-being depends on the well-being of others.
- Realize that this is an unprecedented and alarmingly difficult time
- Accept that everyone manages the situation differently, and has different levels of resources
- Examine inclusivity practices and your own biases. Seek different ways of understanding, knowing and accepting
- Recognize that everyone is doing the best they can right now
- Be flexible
- Take a proactive approach to support employees and employee well-being
- Communicate often and transparently
- Educate employees about your Employee Assistance Program, benefits package and other available resources
- Ensure an emotionally, socially, and psychologically safe environment:
- Check-in regularly and provide the space for employees to share their experiences
- Demonstrate vulnerability. Share your experiences, trials, and tribulations
- Listen actively and with empathy
- Pause before responding
- Maintain respect
Outside The Box Ideas
- Schedule well-being check-ins
- Boost employee morale
- Practice meditation together – perhaps before virtual and/or in person meetings
- Plan resilience activities
- Arrange a meditation initiative for employees and for leadership development
Other Important Considerations
- Ensure that your benefits are easily accessible, culturally responsive, flexible and also delivered by racially diverse providers.
- Confirm that your benefits are known by all employees – Communicate the benefits often.
- Consider partnering with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color) employee resource or affinity groups to communicate with employees. These are often communities where employees feel safe discussing mental health and race-based stress, which is a unique and pervasive burden for many BIPOC employees.
We have summarized Tips to Build Resilience and Maintain Well-Being, as well as Signs and Symptoms of Stress, Anxiety and Depression to share with your employees which we are happy to send you. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if this would be helpful.
Information Adapted from the Following References: Depression-Workplace; CDC Managing Stress; CDC Mental Health; Talk about Mental Health; Mental Health Options for BIPOC; Employers Supporting Employees; CDC Mental Health Learn; How Employers Can Help