Back in April, a cohort study from the Journal of the American Medical Association was one of the first to explore the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on mental health statistics.
According to the researchers, depressive disorders and suicide rates are on the rise. While isolation and joblessness were determined to be aggressive contributors, a silent psychological struggle is raging among workers around the country.
The stigma associated with psychiatric disorders keeps many Americans from disclosing their status to their employers–even if their condition is debilitating.
This has been true for some time but SARS-CoV-2 appears to be compounding all relevant parameters.
On the back of rising mental health decline trends, a new study, titled Mental Health at Work During COVID-19 composed of 1,017 full-time employees concluded that 54% of the study pool opt not to discuss their mental health with their managers and supervisors, 30% are confident that doing so will result in them being fired or furloughed, and 29% are fearful that discussing their psychological issues with higher-ups might cost them a promotion.
Sadly, a similar majority confessed to the researchers that their mental state has been deteriorating over the last couple of months.
Remote workers were less likely to feel this way compared to employees that work on location full-time (46% vs. 56%).
Roughly one-third of all of the participants surveyed said that their engagement and productivity are suffering as a result of mental illness.
“From a strictly economic perspective, the effects of poor mental health can also be fiscally devastating: Employee depression is thought to cost companies around $44 billion in lost productivity per year, and as high as 6.7% of all U.S. adults are thought to have at least one depressive episode annually,” write the authors of the new paper. Today, prolonged social distancing, massive loss of life, and the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to deeply impact Americans’ mental state.”
Thankfully not all of the respondents where completely withholding. Some were choosey about who they confided in.
The authors report that 35% of the participants polled occasionally discuss their mental health concerns with coworkers, while 21% and 5% discuss their poor mental health with a supervisor or an HR representative, respectively.
It’s not entirely clear if HR representatives received the least consultation from struggling employees because of shame or because these workers felt that their companies were ill-equipped to handle psychological concerns.
“Around 40% of employees said their company did not provide adequate policies or procedures to address health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors continued. “On-site employees were more likely to report inadequate mental health policies at work (43%), compared to remote workers (38%).”
Millennials and Generation Xers were particularly worried about losing their job if they advertised instability in any way.
However, remote work seemed to be the most helpful mitigator irrespective of generation, followed by encouraging work/life balance, more flexible hours, a clearly communicated plan in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, and shortened workdays.
It’s important to remember the wealth of resources at our disposal.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine reported a 65% increase in calls and emails since March.
Psychotherapy has come along way in recent years and the ramifications surging suicide rates will pass with time and academic assistance.
“Mental health experts and advocacy organizations often advise that those struggling with mental health issues tell a close friend and a licensed health care professional. That has become a little more difficult in the age of social distancing, while aiming to prevent the spread and contraction of COVID-19,” the authors of the new report concluded. “Even before COVID-19, an estimated 1 in 6 people experienced a common mental health issue like anxiety or depression in any given week. With record-breaking job loss and the potential for an economic downturn, many are likely to brace for the worst – especially if a second wave of COVID-19 arrives in the fall or later.”