Even before Covid-19, the statistics surrounding mental health crises made for grim reading. Every week in the UK, 125 people take their own lives, 75% of whom are men under the age of 50. Health experts and charities, including The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), have warned the government that the coming winter could devastate the mental wellbeing of the nation, as lockdown uncertainty, fear, isolation and loneliness are exacerbated by the colder and darker months. The Centre for Mental Health has predicted that up to 10 million people, almost a fifth of the population of England, will need mental health support as a direct consequence of Covid-19.
For those businesses already under pressure, the misconceived notion that encouraging fewer employees to work longer hours will boost productivity is a false economy and potentially damaging. According to a report by the Lancet Commission, more than 15 million days were lost to absence arising from anxiety, stress and depression in 2018. The report stated that mental health disorders are on the rise in every country in the world, which could cost the global economy up to $16tn by 2030 if not addressed urgently. Again, this report was produced pre-Covid-19, so it’s inevitable that the next available data will paint a bleaker outlook.
Professor Roshan das Nair, a clinical psychologist from the Institute of Mental Health, is “deeply concerned” about the country being able to cope with the looming crisis, commenting:
“The sheer number of people developing problems – and some may not be fully-fledged or reach the threshold for diagnosis – will escalate,” he said. “What this means for the nation’s healthcare service when at the best of times we have long waiting lists, is a real concern. How are we going to cope with the increased demand in the next few months?”
The World Health Organization warns that depression and anxiety could increase susceptibility to infection and transmission of the virus, thereby affecting how nations are able to respond and recover. There is also evidence to suggest that poor mental health affects adherence to rules around social distancing and mask-wearing, and could impact negatively on uptake of a vaccine.
Stanley supporting the mental health of workers at home
According to Stanley, which is concerned with the holistic wellbeing of company workers, technology has a role to play in tackling but also understanding this issue better, which is fast becoming a corporate epidemic. Designed with carefully researched algorithms, the use of online mental health diagnostic tools such as MindCheck have shown to be effective in quickly identifying vulnerable team members, so they can be supported appropriately.
In our view, improving overall workplace wellbeing requires a holistic, consultative approach, which is managed both discreetly and empathetically. In the Covid-19 era with millions of employees now working from home, preservation of mental health is as important as remaining physically fit but even more challenging for employers to monitor how people are coping.
The charity Samaritans has already fielded more than a million calls during the pandemic, a quarter of them asking for help connected to coronavirus. A spokesperson said that “as social restrictions and uncertainty continues, it is essential that we look after our own mental health and others’ by continuing to check on one another and share how we have been feeling”.
Doing things for others, staying in contact with neighbours, friends and family are proven to have strong positive mental health benefits, alongside daily exercise and positive mental reframing, such as taking the “glass half full” approach. Professor Das Nair recommends that a public health drive encouraging these behaviours in the coming months would have a significant effect on reducing the sense of pervasive gloom. “We have to prevent people from getting to the stage where they feel mental ill health, as doing things that are positively rewarding is really useful in improving people’s wellbeing,” he said.
Stanley suggests that a helpful way to view mental health is by referring to it as “emotional fitness”, in the same way, that a run, walk or cycle promotes physical wellbeing.
Stanley’s Managing Director, Graham Sharp, said:
“Covid-19 has turned the traditional model of people going to a place of work upside down. Remote working from home is now the new ‘normal’ for millions of employees, which brings a great number of challenges related to mental health. Committed to supporting the business community with tools to improve wellbeing, Stanley’s MindCheck online solution delivers a fast and robust way of identifying vulnerable team members, which allows for early intervention so that positive support can be provided.”