Addressing Mental Health

How employers can take action to improve workplaces and support employees

In the year 2019, the infamous COVID-19 pandemic began to take its toll on the entire world. People found themselves suffering in isolation, impacted by job loss and broken due to loss of family members and friends, among many other facets.

According to a CDC survey of adults that was published in April of 2020 by the National Institute of Mental Health, 31% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 13% reported that they started or increased their substance use, 26% reported symptoms related to stress and 11% having admitted to thoughts of suicide within the previous 30 days. In regard to the same study, these numbers are almost double to what they would have been expected to be had the pandemic hadn’t happened.

Here we are now

The mental health epidemic triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to linger. Thankfully, the pandemic did raise awareness on the topic of mental health, making more people knowledgeable on the topic and advancing more resources to those who are suffering.

Numbers began to show that more and more people became familiar with crisis intervention services. These services reported the major increase in volume depicting anxiety and distress during the pandemic’s uncertainties, according to data published by the National Institute of Mental Health in April 2021.

Awareness has been raised but what’s next?

Here is what employers have to say

Eighty-three percent of employers have identified that wellbeing will take over as one of their organization’s top priorities through the next three years, according to data from Willis Towers Watson.

Taking action

Employers should be considering these four actions to initiate their pursuit to aiding their employees.

  1. Understand: Employers need to first gain an understanding on the complexity behind the emotional wellbeing needs of the employees.
  2. Design: Next, it is time for the employer to formulate their plan that will be used to enhance the experience for the workers in the workplace.
  3. Align: The employer should now adjust the workplace culture to coincide properly with the company’s core values.
  4. Adjust: In the long term, the employer should be taking notice to what is and isn’t working in the workplace. With this, strategies of improving will need to be utilized.

Aside from learning these four basic steps, here are some plans for employers to implement now and in the near future in order to address the mental health epidemic that COVID-19 has faced us with:

  1. Putting technology to use: Technology is an amazing tool, especially today in its most innovative, modern state. It can be used to retain workplace relationships for those working from home and those working in the office. This subsides the sense of isolation and creates a positive impact in terms of employee communication, further driving a better wellbeing for each team member. Along with this, technology can be used to provide helpful resources for both remote and in-person employees, such as licensed counselors on call, meditation platforms and remote education to encourage learned coping methods and strategic stress management.
  2. Bringing down the stigma: Mental health has a large stigma around it that causes employees, and people in general, to fear the idea of discussing it and seeking help. Reducing the stigma begins with starting the conversation and making the topic gain its normality. With this, it will be easier and less intimidating to have a therapist present ways of recognizing symptoms, improving wellbeing and seeking help.
  3. Opening up paths for communication: It is vital for an employer to openly communicate with their employees about mental health resources that are available in the workplace. Communication needs to be used to deliver information about updates in mental health resources offered and covered in the benefits plans. It is also crucial for an employer to learn communication in terms of showing empathy in times of mayhem.
  4. Prioritizing wellbeing: Wellbeing should be a major focal point in benefits plans. This includes physical, mental and financial health during both times of ease and in times of crisis. Companies can do this by building the resources into their benefits plan. As stress levels rise, the number of doctors visits will tend to increase. Therefore, if employers can provide employees with beneficial medical offices and articulate new insurance plans for these increasing doctor visits, employees will learn to trust their jobs in a health and safety sense.

These are only a few ways in which employers can take action to aid their workers. Once new plans similar to these are learned and implemented, a better sense of health and unity will develop in the workplace.

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Brianne Hailey Killeen

Brianne Hailey Killeen

Brianne Hailey Killeen was previously a senior at Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro, New Jersey, taking up a journalism internship with the Meadowlands Chamber and Meadowlands Media. There, she would use her passion in journalism and writing to articulate helpful, yet significant pieces for the MC's publications. Brianne was recently hired and kept on board for the Meadowlands Chamber as a Media and Editorial Production Coordinator. While maintaining this position, she will be studying Communications and Media Studies at Montclair State University. Brianne can be contacted at bkilleen@meadowlands.org

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