Mental health and the pandemic: it’s time to talk

Saturday 10th October is World Mental Health Day 2020. Let’s look at how we can all support each other more as we continue to face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

First published on Friday, Oct 09, 2020

Last updated on Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

4 min read

It’s now been six months since the UK lockdown was announced and our lives started to change in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

When the seriousness of the situation first hit back in March, we stood together and took practical action to support each other and adjust to this new ‘temporary’ way of life.

We clapped for our carers. We home-schooled our children. We set up desks and worked from home. We scheduled our daily walks, organised Friday night drinks, and set up family Zoom quizzes. And this national community spirit energised us through what we imagined would be short-term uncertainty. But six months on?

Short-term has become long-term, and let’s be honest—we’re all tired.

The pandemic’s effect on mental health

Now we’re starting to see and feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our mental health. And the figures are emerging to back this up.

One major study showed that 57% of participants reported anxiety and 64% reported common signs of depression during the pandemic. And another study by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that, out of 4,251 people surveyed, 82% had experienced stress as a result of COVID-19.

That’s why this World Mental Health Day 2020 it’s more important than ever that we support each other through this difficult time. And if you’re an employer, this support extends to your staff, too…

Your responsibility to support staff

We know, it’s a big responsibility. And one you weren’t necessarily prepared for when you started a business. Because while you knew you’d have to support staff wellbeing in a more ‘general’ way, the coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented situation that has brought a whole host of challenges you couldn’t have foreseen.

And it’s particularly important to think about mental health right now. Because the studies show people’s mental health improved as lockdown measures lifted, but now rising infection rates and more aggressive restrictions being considered over autumn and winter mean that mental health struggles are likely to increase as life continues to change over the next few months.

What can employers do?

The Mental Health Foundation’s study reported a number of ways that people have been looking after their mental health during the pandemic:

  • 59% of people said that walking helped them cope with the uncertainty.
  • 50% said visiting green spaces like parks was beneficial.
  • 39% said that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as sleeping well and eating healthily, reduced anxiety.
  • 38% said doing their hobby lowered their stress levels.

There are lots of practical steps you can take to support yourself and your staff but there’s one way we can all help each other during the pandemic. And that’s talking.

It’s good to talk

We all know it’s good to talk things through when we’re struggling, but it’s often easier said than done, especially in a work environment.

And in the coronavirus pandemic, people may feel less able to speak up when they’re struggling. Because while some comfort can be taken in the fact we’re all in this together, people may feel they don’t ‘have the right’ to be struggling because ‘everyone else’ at work seems to be coping…

That’s why it’s so important we all keep an eye out for each other. And if you notice someone seems not quite themselves? Speak up. Just asking someone if they’re okay can open the door for a conversation that helps them feel more connected and supported.

And if you’re struggling yourself? Speak up, too. While employers have a responsibility to support their staff’s mental health, you don’t need to pretend you’re pandemic-proof and are taking the coronavirus climate in your stride. It’s just as important to look after your own mental health, as well as the mental health of your staff.

BrightHR is here to help

Bright Wellbeing & Counselling offers a wealth of services to support the mental health of employers and their employees.

Our suite of online tools helps keep you and your workers happy and healthy, you get easy access to sessions with qualified counsellors, and our advice line is open 24/7, 365—so you can get confidential and compassionate mental health support anytime, day or night.

To find out more about Bright Wellbeing & Counselling and how it helps support you and your staff, speak to one of our experts today on 0800 786 2806.

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