2 ways to help support your team's mental health

It's become more difficult for distant employers to recognize and address the mental health issues brought on by uncertainty. Here are a couple of ways to be there for your team.

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Image: Prostock Studio, Getty Images/iStockPhoto

Mental health concerns are at an all-time high due to COVID-19. A survey by mental health provider Ginger showed nearly 7 in 10 employees said the coronavirus pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional careers. Another report, "America's State of Mind," spells out the impact uncertainty is having on employees. "More than three quarters (78%) of all antidepressant, antianxiety, and anti-insomnia prescriptions filled during the week ending March 15 (the peak week) were for new prescriptions." 

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It's not just difficult for employees but employers can't see the effects on their employees who are now working remotely. The regular face-to-face interaction has been reduced to instant messaging, periodic video chats, and conference calls, making it easier for employees to hide the symptoms of depression and anxiety. To help employees reduce their stress, develop coping mechanisms, and address the increase in mental illness, these tips can help employers support their employees.

Offer financial support

One of the most difficult problems affecting employees is financial stress. The reality is that without sufficient financial resources, mortgages, rent, loans, groceries, and other essential bills cannot get paid. Financial stress can range from uncomfortable for some to devastating or even life-threatening for others. 

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As an employer, it's vital to recognize this and assess and implement financial lifelines for those in desperate need. Not all companies are in a position to do this as they, too, are struggling financially. If your company has the means, providing temporary bridging loans, advancing pay, or offering products like food vouchers, can significantly reduce the stress on your most valuable assets—your employees. This goodwill helps employees recognize their value to the company and can have an immeasurable impact not only on their self-worth but also on their dedication to your company once the crisis is over. 

Emotional support for improved mental well-being

Communication, communication, communication. This word can't be said enough. Don't just chat about the weather, but discuss the important stressors and the impact they are having on employees. 

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Many employees will be uncomfortable talking about stressors, concerns, fears, and mental health with their bosses. Consider establishing an employee forum or chat room where employees can anonymously discuss these issues. Why is this such a big deal? The World Health Organization estimates that globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. Further, the WHO's findings show people who have gone through adverse life events (unemployment, bereavement, psychological trauma) are more likely to develop depression. COVID-19 alone has created all of these events at once. With so many people dealing with depression and anxiety, it's vital that mental health become a normal part of everyday discussion and not a taboo topic. 

Mental health is just another aspect of our health as a whole and not a topic that people should be ashamed to talk about. No matter how stellar your product or service is, your company is only as strong as its employees. As an employer, recognizing this and the impact of mental illness on employees is vital for the health of your business. 

Financial and emotional support are two key aspects of life that most people need on a regular basis. Without being on solid ground in these two areas, your employees can't focus on being productive. As an employer, you can play a role in supporting your employees and reducing the impact of stressors like COVID-19. 

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