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How Employers and Leaders Can Help With Our Mental Health Crisis

Forbes |Jack Kelly | Jan 8, 2022

mental health issues - How Employers and Leaders Can Help With Our Mental Health CrisisFor two years we've been subjected to fear, anxiety, isolation, powerlessness which all contributed to a crisis of “collective trauma,” and being on “edge.’  It took a deadly virus outbreak to wake up employers to look after the mental health and emotional well-being of their people.

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LifeWorks’ mental health index tracks how people are faring across the world. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Nearly one-fifth of working Americans report that their working life has worsened since the start of the pandemic.
  • Seventeen percent of Americans indicate that their working life has worsened compared to before the pandemic; the mental health of this group is nearly 11 points below the national average.
  • Sixteen percent of Americans report that their personal life has worsened compared to before the pandemic; the mental health of this group is nearly 15 points below the national average.
  •  Differences in mental health scores between those with and without emergency savings have been reported since the launch of the Index in April 2020. Nearly two years later, individuals without emergency savings have a mental health score (-21.8) more than 18 points below the overall group (-3.7) and more than 20 points below those with emergency savings (0.9).
  • For the 20th consecutive month, full-time post-secondary students have the lowest mental health score (-18.8) by a significant margin

What Leadership Needs To Do Now

Change comes from the top. Fortunately, we’ve started to see C-suite executives taking action and communicating the importance of mental health and well-being, and demonstrating empathy. That helps people feel valued, understood and less isolated in their struggles.

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Managers need to acknowledge that people have different situations to deal with, as everyone is on their own personal journey. Some staff members may need a lot of help—others, not so much. Everyone can benefit from some form of guidance or support.

It's not reasonable to presume managers intuitively know how to deal with these serious matters. Therefore, it's incumbent upon leadership to train the managers and teach them how to express empathy. It may make sense to bring in outside experts, especially if there is a sense that morale is dropping and the rate of employee attrition is increasing at an alarming rate.

Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers didn’t talk about mental health issues, career burnout, feeling of depression or existential crises. In the past, there was a stigma attached to these feelings. With this in mind, it takes time for people to feel comfortable admitting that they need help.

What You Can Do Right Now

We always talk about the importance of our physical health. We all agree that it's important to eat healthily, exercise and avoid excesses, such as drinking too much, smoking or indulging in illicit drugs. You need to adopt this mindset for your mental health.

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By showing gratitude and recognizing others can help both you and the other person, it actually rewires your brain in a way that helps your own resilience. It's hard to manage the unrelenting stress and avoid burnout all by yourself.  It is restorative to have relationships. It’s also important to keep things in perspective.

Our challenge is that the virus outbreak cut us off from society. The amount of outside activities have been diminished.

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