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How to Support Employees Struggling with Anxiety and Depression

Your employees have had a hard year and a half—we all have. The COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down. Our normal routines, the source of comfort and familiarity for so many of us, got completely upended when the entire country shut down for months at a time. Millions of Americans experienced negative mental health issues due to social isolation; others had increased stress levels from having to adjust very quickly to working and taking care of their families from home. Many of us lost a friend or family member to the virus and are grieving; others are struggling with job loss and financial insecurity.

Even with the vaccine widely available, as news of the Delta variant grows more and more concerning, many Americans are wondering if this is our new normal. The thought of facing another year or longer of constant fear, stress, and uncertainty is daunting. We’ve been remarkably resilient, but people are starting to feel worn down. Consider the following statistics from SHRM on American employees’ mental health since March 2020:

  • Between 22% and 35% of U.S. employees have often experienced symptoms of depression living through the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Work-related concerns left more than 40% of employees feeling hopeless, burned out, or exhausted in 2020.
  • 51% of female employees reported often feeling depressed or hopeless in the last year.
  • 55% of surveyed employees reported often having little interest or pleasure in doing things since COVID-19 began.

Struggling with unresolved mental health issues can negatively affect employees’ health, sense of wellbeing, and job performance. Johnny C. Taylor, President and CEO of SHRM, recently offered the following advice to employers: “COVID-19 is taking a toll on our minds and emotions in a million little ways. Now, more than ever, employers should double down against stigmas and guarantee employees know of the resources, benefits, and accommodations available."

In this blog post, we’ll let you know the steps business leaders can take to support their staff members struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.

Encourage employees to take advantage of telehealth and telemedicine resources.

The use of telehealth services—already on the rise for the past several years—soared during the coronavirus disruptions. Telehealth and telemedicine platforms utilize virtual technology to help physicians and patients communicate with each other, even if they are not in the same physical location. This communication can be either in real-time or delayed, via phone, webcam, or email. Telemedicine can be used for evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of patients.

There are many advantages to telemedicine as a solution to mental health issues exacerbated by coronavirus disruptions—to both employers and their employees, including:

  • Allows providers to continue to treat mental health issues while staying within social distancing guidelines, reducing the risk of spreading Covid-19 to patients
  • Increased access to doctors, especially in rural areas
  • Greater access to specialists, especially for mental health services
  • Higher cost savings for patients and plan sponsors

Related Reading: Telehealth and Telemedicine Solutions to Reduce Healthcare Costs

Facilitate mental wellness by offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Following the major disruptions related to the pandemic, businesses have seen a spike in mental health issues within their employee population. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free and confidential assessments, counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees that experience personal and/or work-related problems. In addition, EAPs can also provide workers and their families with short-term counseling and access to resources and treatment facilities. These services come at no cost to the employee or their family and are available 24/7.

EAPs can help businesses address organizational components that may be contributing to a negative work environment, enabling them to resolve and prevent those types of issues from occurring. According to the Center for Prevention and Health Services, when EAP services were provided, work loss was avoided in 39% of cases and work productivity improved in 36% of cases.

EAP programs can also help businesses:

  • Decrease absenteeism
  • Reduce accidents on the job
  • Reduce medical costs
  • Contribute to a healthy work/life balance for their employees

Related Reading: Top Employee Health and Wellness Trends for 2021

These are challenging times for business leaders. Implementing or improving a benefits program that empowers your employees by providing easy access to quality medical and mental health services can be a daunting task—especially right now! Many business owners and/or smaller HR departments simply don't have the time to find the right program and make it successful. SWBC’s team of employee benefits consultants can provide innovative solutions to your healthcare cost-drivers through our collaborative, consultative approach, allowing us to deliver customized plans to fit your company’s needs and budget.

Learn how to boost employee engagement while minimizing healthcare costs for your organization.

This material is provided for information only. It is not intended as medical advice. You should consult your healthcare provider for advice specific to your situation.

Related Categories

Employee Health & Wellness

Taylor Cunningham

Taylor Cunningham is an Employee Benefits Consultant who provides clients with expert advice about the healthcare marketplace. She designs and implements benefits solutions to help her clients achieve their business goals. She welcomes any opportunity to discuss employee benefits strategies and improve a company's bottom-line.

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