How Employers Can Help With Our Mental Health Crisis and ‘Collective Trauma’

For two years, we were subjected to fear, anxiety, isolation, helplessness which all contributed to a crisis of “collective trauma” and to being “on edge”.

To find out just how bad things are and what business leaders and people can do to cope with the relentless challenges brought on by the pandemic, I spoke with Paula Allen, Global Leader and Senior Vice President, Research and total well-being at LifeWorks, a world leader. by providing digital and in-person solutions that contribute to the total well-being of individuals and employees.

It took a deadly virus outbreak to wake employers up to take care of the mental health and emotional well-being of their employees. Covid-19, followed by the Delta variant, and now Omicron’s sudden surge, have left people feeling lost and defeated. It’s hard to stay positive and optimistic when public schools, colleges, businesses, restaurants, and live events close. Travel plans are being scrapped as airlines cancel flights. The fear of catching and spreading the disease makes many people feel depressed and withdraw from society.

Allen says that according to statistics from LifeWorks, there has been a doubling of the proportion of the population that is at high risk for mental health problems – from 14 percent to 34 percent. With Omicron, she says, “I think we’re going to continue to feel the edge that we felt” and “These people who have mental health support needs, their needs are quite complex – more than before. ”

Since most humans have an innate sense of optimism, when we see things improving and see a light at the end of the tunnel, then realize that another train is coming our way, we feel frustrated and helpless. Roller coasters of ups and downs have taken a toll on the mental health of the world’s population.

Human beings are social creatures and need others. Interacting with people and maintaining close relationships inspires us and makes us feel good. When we are under pressure and overly stressed, we tend to withdraw and isolate ourselves from the outside world. This reflex reaction is not healthy. Instead, you need a social support system, to connect with people, and to feel part of it.

Business leadership can play an important role in supporting the mental health of their employees. This means implementing a variety of wellness programs, ensuring consistent communication about what is available to employees, and training managers on how to spot signs of mental distress within their teams. Another important element of this is flexibility.

The LifeWorks Mental Health Index tracks the situation of people around the world. Here are some important points:

  • Nearly a fifth of U.S. workers say their working lives have deteriorated since the start of the pandemic
  • 17% of Americans indicate that their professional life has deteriorated compared to before the pandemic; the mental health of this group is almost 11 points lower than the national average.
  • Americans working from home are 75% more likely than those working in the workplace to report an improvement in their work life compared to before the pandemic.
  • 16% of Americans say their personal lives have deteriorated from before the pandemic; the mental health of this group is almost 15 points lower than the national average.
  • Differences in mental health scores between people with and without emergency savings have been reported since the index was launched in April 2020. Almost two years later, people without emergency savings have a score of mental health (-21.8) lower by more than 18 points than the overall group (-3.7) and more than 20 points below those with emergency savings (0.9).
  • For 20th consecutive month, full-time postsecondary students have the lowest mental health score (-18.8) by a significant margin

What leadership needs to do now

Change comes from above. Fortunately, we have started to see senior executives taking action and communicating the importance of mental health and wellness, and showing empathy. It helps people feel valued, understood, and less isolated in their struggles.

Managers need to recognize that people have different situations to deal with, as everyone follows their own personal journey. Some staff may need a lot of help, others not so much. Anyone can benefit from some form of guidance or support.

Supervisors cannot assume that someone has a challenge. They should ask politely, individually, how they are doing and how the company can help them. Frequent and regular micro-surveys can help understand people’s moods and whether they are improving or worsening.

It is not reasonable to assume that managers intuitively know how to deal with these serious problems. Therefore, it is the responsibility of leadership to train managers and teach them to express empathy. It may be wise to bring in outside experts, especially if there is a feeling that morale is dropping and employee attrition rates are increasing at an alarming rate.

Baby boomers and Gen Xers haven’t talked about mental health issues, burnout, feelings of depression and existential crises. In the past, these feelings were stigmatized. With that in mind, it takes time for people to feel comfortable admitting that they need help.

Management must foster a sense of belonging, accept people as they are and involve them with respect. Show recognition so that workers feel their efforts matter and are appreciated. Create a psychologically safe culture in which no one feels ashamed for sharing their ideas or berating them for doing a minor incident. Deploy an Employee Assistance Program that provides confidential mental health and holistic support to employees and their families.

What you can do now

We always talk about the importance of our physical health. We all agree that it is important to eat healthy, exercise, and avoid excess such as drinking too much, smoking or taking illicit drugs. You need to embrace this mindset for your sanity.

Showing gratitude and recognizing others can help you and the other person. It actually rewires your brain in a way that helps your own resilience. It’s hard to deal with relentless stress and avoid burnout on your own. It is restorative to have relationships. It is also important to keep things in perspective.

Our challenge is that the virus epidemic has cut us off from society. The number of outdoor activities has decreased. To make up for what we have lost, you need to consciously plan something for their day that gives them a sense of accomplishment. Find a hobby, sport, or activity that makes you feel good. Get in touch with people you haven’t spoken to in a while. Participate in online events to expand your network and meet new people. Stay away from depressing books, music, and toxic people. Take on new challenges that will get you up and out of bed in the morning. If you need help, don’t worry about the stigma. Let people know how you are feeling and seek professional help.

Do not deny what you are feeling and what you are going through. The best medicine is others. There is no reason to go it alone. Be realistic about the world around you, don’t worry too much about long-term goals, and focus on the here and now.

Allen argues that there will be long-term implications of the pandemic on our mental health. Even if we come to a place where the physicality of the pandemic is under control, many people will continue to struggle with their mental health for years and perhaps decades to come, because of Covid-19.

The decline in our collective mental health – including increased isolation, anxiety, and depression – is unsettling, but with the help of employers and taking personal control of your life, you can overcome it. obstacles and thrive.

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