As Teresa Williams, managing partner of Home Care Connect, put it in a post on WorkCompWire, "mental health is getting hammered" by the pandemic. More than 36% of U.S. adults are showing symptoms of depression or anxiety, compared to 11% in 2019. Suicides, substance abuse, and alcohol sales are up. These problems will probably get worse as long as the pandemic lasts.
Eight of ten Americans are stressed, which can lead to PTSD. While most traumatic events happen in a limited time period, no one knows when this pandemic will end.
In her post Williams discusses who employers should take care of their employees' mental health needs.
- Communication. Supply accurate, regular information. Use webinars or fact sheets to educate workers.
- Talk about the business. Tell employees what is happening and give them time to prepare for layoffs or transitions. Don't delay bad news until the last minute. Be transparent.
- Talk about coronavirus. Update staff on developments in your area. Let them know about your protective resources (preferably before they return to the workplace). Show you care about their welfare and the welfare of their families.
- Communication venues. People are more apt to share in small settings. Check regularly with individuals and teams. Cultivate a culture of caring. Pay special attention to younger and more vulnerable workers.
- Human resources. Review policies and benefits for employees who need them. Be flexible with vacation time. Allow employees to take time off if they need a "mental health day" - or longer.
- Stress management. Offer tips for stress reduction and healthy habits. Encourage employees to seek reliable sources of information. Advise them of substance abuse programs and support groups.
Above all, let employees know it's OK to talk about mental health problems. Encourage everyone to be compassionate.