Mental Health: Supporting Each Other Through Times Of Crisis

Back in October, I wrote about how the Covid-19 pandemic is hammering mental health. I also highlighted in that piece how despite the detrimental impact of the current situation, many businesses are responding and supporting their employees as best they can.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that Covid-19 is fuelling nothing less than a surge in work-related stress across the globe. Indeed, recently published research from AXA shows exactly what is happening in this regard across the UK.

Surge in work-related stress

According to AXA’s A Report on Mental Health & Wellbeing in Europe, nearly two-thirds (64%) of workers across the UK and Europe said their work-related stress levels had increased compared with pre-pandemic levels. Of more concern is that of these individuals, eight in 10 (81%) described themselves as having a “poor” or “low” state of mind.

When it comes to UK workers, 27% of people aged 25-34 said their mental health had deteriorated during the pandemic, compared with 17% of over-55s.

In terms of the reasons behind the decline in mental health among workers, unsurprisingly, missing personal encounters was cited as a top cause. Along with Spain (85%), Britons (82%) lead the way when it comes to missing physical contact with people outside of their direct household. France (78%), Italy (78%) and Belgium (75%) followed.

Self-medicating mental health issues

Meanwhile, research from Bupa Global has revealed that as many as 64% of senior business leaders with pandemic-related mental ill-health have turned to potentially unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

As part of its Executive Wellbeing Index, Bupa Global found that two in five board members in the UK have turned to alcohol or drugs during the crisis, while others have been using cigarettes or vaping, excessive exercise, over or under-eating and/or gambling.

The Bupa study also revealed the extent of the pandemic’s impact on mental health, with eight in 10 (78%) individuals having experienced symptoms such as fatigue, lack of motivation, mood swings and disturbed sleep. Business-related worries, economic recession, protecting the health of loved ones, coping with reduced personal freedoms and fear of financial insecurity were all cited as triggers.

Speaking out

Perhaps saddest of all is the fact that many people are still reluctant to speak out and seek help because of the stigma associated with mental health issues — and this despite initiatives to heighten mental health awareness during the pandemic.

Indeed, two in five board executives (42%) said their reputations would be damaged if it came to light that they were struggling, while a similar number are concerned about how seeking help would impact their professional or social reputation.

Let’s help each other

It is so sad to read that people still feel they cannot talk openly about mental health issues, especially when it affects business leaders who are fundamental to setting the culture within the organisation. It demonstrates no one is immune from these health issues and I really believe our industry has a positive role to play to enable change.