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      Mental health on brink of nosedive

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      The impact of Covid-19 on the economy will take its toll on mental wellbeing. Those with existing mental health conditions are predicted to experience more serious and prolonged difficulties, and those that haven’t experienced mental ill-health before are susceptible too as they deal with new pressures. As such, businesses need to be aware that all staff need support with their mental health as a result of the pandemic, advises Towergate Health & Protection.

      Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection says: “It is anticipated that half a million more people may experience mental ill-health because of Covid-19. Combined with those that already had existing mental health conditions before the pandemic – potentially exacerbated by lockdown – businesses must support all staff. In a time marred by uncertainty and concern, mental health support can literally be a lifeline to those struggling.”

      Specialist support
      With employees facing potentially severe mental health conditions, many healthcare providers have ramped up the support they offer, including access to mental health specialists, such as psychotherapists, psychologists, counsellors and psychiatrists, which can all be vital to those with severe mental health concerns. GP referrals aren’t always needed to allow access to these support services.

      Much of the extra support is being provided in the wake of the pandemic at no extra charge within existing private medical insurance (PMI), cash plans and group risk protection policies, so it’s worthwhile businesses reviewing existing plans and investigating new options that have been made available.

      Early intervention
      The earlier such support is offered the better. Tackling mental health concerns promptly can help prevent them manifesting into more complex problems. With the pandemic throwing new and unprecedented problems into the mix, staff may struggle to cope with emotions and situations they haven’t experienced before. By dealing with mental health issues from the onset, it minimises the risk of it becoming more serious.

      Maintaining resilience
      With concerns around additional waves of the virus hitting, and fears of the country potentially entering a deep economic recession, businesses need to support their staff in building and maintaining resilience during a tumultuous time. Fears around job security, pressure to deliver, personal finances and health remain – against a backdrop of operating in often new or radically changed working conditions – all potentially creating additional pressure on mental health.

      Offering access to help such as telephone counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and life skills courses can all be available remotely. Such support can enable staff to reframe their thoughts, work through issues and get mental health back on track.

      Stay in contact
      Isolation can contribute to poor mental health – indeed, this has been recognised by the Government who has introduced “support bubbles” to combat loneliness associated with Covid-19. Businesses can help reduce the feeling of isolation too by maintaining regular contact with employees, which can go a long way to support mental wellbeing. Although employees can bemoan the frequency of video meetings, it can be a vital tool in helping staff feel connected and engaged during an isolating period. Creating social events via video, such as quizzes and team challenges, can encourage interaction and improve mental health, and it’s important that businesses are proactive in this area.

      Hill adds: “Mental health has been rightfully rising up the agenda for businesses for some time now and with the unprecedented situation we face resulting from the pandemic, more has to be done to support staff during this unique time.

      “Employees that haven’t experienced mental health concerns before may well be at risk, and those with existing conditions may be in greater danger. It’s crucial that businesses investigate what resources are available to support all people with their mental health. By speaking with specialists – reviewing existing support packages, uncovering propositions that may now be included in policies as a result of the pandemic and learning about new help available – employers can provide crucial support to those struggling.”

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      AUTHOR

      Lisa Carter

      All stories by: Lisa Carter