Now more than ever, it is easy to see that focusing on self care and one’s mental health is important. With another wave of the pandemic upon us, we’re again reminded of the need for social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks and practicing prescribed COVID-19 prevention measures. Aside from fiscal considerations, employers also feel greater pressure to source methods to support employees’ mental health and provide timely and effective intervention strategies.
Since March, many of us experienced stress, uncertainty and fear. We’ve had to work differently, parent differently, and engage differently within our community. With a reoccurring cycle of negative news, it can be hard to find comfort in today’s climate. Along with these challenges, employers face the duty of keeping employees engaged and productive while managing work via virtual meetings and remote arrangements. While getting a glimpse into employees’ living rooms via a computer screen doesn’t show the complete picture, but it does provide clues as to their levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety.
According to an RBC poll, Canadians are increasingly comfortable disclosing a mental illness. The poll reveals that 77 per cent say they would comfortably or reluctantly disclose it, versus 73 per cent the previous year. Where there is a reluctance to share, struggles with privacy, fear of being treated differently and stigma are the main barriers.
Another sign of emerging employee stress and mental health pressures comes from data shared by Express Scripts Canada. They report that prescription drug claim volumes for antidepressants are set to exceed 2019 given claims the end of August were already at 97 per cent of last year’s total. Where’s the shift? There is a 20 per cent increase in claims for antidepressants from new claimants.
What are Employers to Do?
The good news involves a combination of some tried and true communication methods along with introducing an awareness of mental health apps that are readily accessible.
While these suggestions may go a long way to support mental health, if employees are not noticing their symptoms of stress, depression, or anxiety lessening and it is affecting their ability to perform activities of daily living, encourage them to reach out to a mental health expert. If available, remind employees of their access to the confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as another resource.
Let’s start with a quick overview of three free apps.
Bringing these and similar apps to employees’ attention can be a powerful and effective way of helping with mental health management during these demanding times.
A Case for Greater Self Care
Along with sharing free mental health apps, employers may wish to consider communicating messages about the need for greater self care. These messages could be in the form of a short video and/or emails from senior leaders, highly-respected colleagues, union leaders, and local mental health professionals.
Self care messages targeted at front-line managers and public-facing staff are critical. These days they draw on a greater reserve of fortitude, stamina, and perseverance. This energy drain requires that they get sufficient sleep, take time to relax, eat nutritious meals, and exercise regularly. Given their work pressures, there is greater likelihood that they aren’t practicing self care by putting the needs of others first or checking work emails late into the evening. Excuses like, “I’m too busy” or “I’m too tired” not only put the employee at risk, but also aren’t in the best interest of the organization.
In our next post, we’ll focus specifically on key self care habits that can be integrated into the work day and we’ll provide you with a link to download a free Self Care Tips poster you can share with employees.
We know there is a great deal to consider. Please contact us with your questions and let’s work together and create solutions that work best for you and your organization.