The Increasing Need for Behavioral Health: Managing Stress and Anxiety During COVID-19
The COVID-19 guidelines in this article are reflective of the time of writing. To stay up to date with the latest CDC guidelines visit the official COVID-19 site.
Today, more than half of adults in the U.S. experience stress during “a lot of the day,” according to a recent Gallup study. This is just one of many studies revealing stress and anxiety are more common than not, further fueling the growing conversation around the importance of addressing mental health in the workplace. The need to address the emotional wellbeing of employees is only amplified during a public health crisis like COVID-19.
Signs and symptoms of behavioral health issues can present differently for everyone. Whether your employees are essential workers in lines of business such as healthcare, sanitation, or agriculture, or your workforce has transitioned to a work from home environment, there is a need for tools and resources to help your employees navigate their specific situation and improve their overall wellbeing – especially during a pandemic.
How to Identify Mental Health Challenges in Your Organization
Statistics show people are seeking behavioral health support at a growing rate. Mental Health America has reported an upsurge in their clinical anxiety screenings, and at Premise Health, when comparing October 2019 to October 2020, we’ve witnessed a 94% increase in new member visits, likely due to coronavirus anxieties.
As we continue to navigate the new normal, the need for behavioral health support will continue to grow. Understanding what to look for in your population can help identify conditions before they escalate and help keep your employees healthy and productive.
Worrying about what comes next is natural when things are constantly changing. Anxiety can manifest as a sense of restlessness, nervous behavior, and tension.
A public health crisis can be especially triggering for those who experience contamination obsessions, and as a result, they may have difficulty concentrating.
Stay-at-home mandates keep us away from our loved ones, causing a sense of loneliness and creating greater potential for a depressive episode.
A global pandemic brings a fair share of uncertainty and disorder, and as a result, it can be traumatizing for people. This isn’t an uncommon experience. During the 2003 SARS outbreak, nearly 29 percent of people experienced traumatic stress while in quarantine due to uncertainty and confusion. This is a possibility during COVID-19 as well.
Pent up fear and anxiety around the uncertainty that comes with a global pandemic are normal and can disrupt standard sleeping patterns.
Providing access to the appropriate resources can help your employees cope with stress and anxiety, ultimately making your organization stronger. Here are a few tips to consider.
How to Help Employees Navigate Mental Health Challenges
As an HR professional, there are many things you can do or resources you can provide to support your organization’s mental health.
Tap into Your EAP Benefits
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program designed to identify and assist team members in resolving personal problems that could adversely affect work performance. The primary goal of an EAP is to support employees’ and covered dependents’ wellbeing, so they remain productive and healthy.
Most employers offer this to their organization as it can help manage acute stressors and immediate short-term needs. By making your team members aware that they have access to an EAP resource to help them work through personal issues ensures employees feel supported in their wellbeing journeys, whether that’s in the office or in a work from home environment.
Train Your Providers
If you provide access to an onsite health center or nearsite health center, ensure your providers are equipped with the skills they need to identify behavioral health needs.
Arming providers with general behavioral health training can serve as the first line of support in responding to emotional challenges. It’s an essential step in improving outcomes and making sure those who have diagnosed behavioral health conditions get the care they need throughout the global health crisis at hand.
Offer Self-Help Tools
If your employees don’t have access to a behavioral health specialist for screenings, there are helpful tools readily available online. Other resources like group programs, meditations, and smartphone apps can prove useful in managing stress, too.
Consider providing access to virtual health seminars to encourage self-care that can lead toward a more productive and happier population. For example, mindfulness or emotional wellbeing seminars help individuals learn to tame anxiety, build resilience, work on communication skills, and much more all from the comforts of home.
Access issues, high costs, the negative stigma, and lack of support are some of the main reasons people don’t seek mental health treatment. Showing compassion can make employees feel supported and could increase the chance they seek care. For example, extend empathy to parents and acknowledge the challenges they face working from home, while simultaneously homeschooling and taking care of children. Simple gestures go a long way for someone struggling with a mental health issue, and when employees feel supported, they perform better and feel more connected to their work
Provide Access to Virtual Behavioral Health
During a pandemic, it is not uncommon for healthcare providers to suggest in-person care be reserved for urgent or emergent needs. For individuals struggling with a mental health issue, waiting to get care isn’t an option. Virtual health provides a means for employees to get care when and where it’s needed, even from the comfort of their own home. Virtual behavioral health visits can address a number of challenges, including stress-related illnesses, grief, parenting challenges, marital problems, depression, anxiety, and more.
Conditions like depression and anxiety have cost an estimated one trillion dollars globally due to lost productivity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While the statistics paint a grim picture, data also demonstrates the value of mental health treatment. For every dollar spent on treatment for common mental disorders, there’s a four-dollar return on improved health and productivity.
Behavioral health solutions following the coronavirus pandemic will be a long-term need. As organizations return to the workplace and begin integrating back into daily routines, the transition could prove challenging for many. With the right tools and resources readily available to your population, you will be in a better position to address mental health issues and help your employees remain productive, healthy, and happy.
A Comprehensive Behavioral Health Offering
At Premise, our behavioral health offering is fully integrated with our primary care services. Behavioral health professionals actively work as part of the care team and can integrate with community resources when needed. Our behavioral health product aims to optimize a member’s mental and emotional wellbeing through evidence-based counseling and positive behavior change techniques.
Premise is committed to protecting and promoting the health and safety of team members, members, and their families. As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves, our teams can play a critical role in providing continued access to high-quality healthcare. By providing care virtually, and in-person when needed, direct primary care reduces the burden on the healthcare system and helps individuals stay out of emergency rooms and hospitals where they risk COVID-19 exposure. This allows people to stay home and stay safe even when care is still needed.
From pandemic preparation and screening to response and return to work, we can help your organization strategically navigate this unprecedented and challenging time.
- If you are a Premise Health member with questions, call your health center.
- If you are a Premise Health client with questions, please contact your director of client operations.
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Premise Health is the leading direct healthcare provider offering onsite wellness centers, as well as nearsite and virtual access points. For the latest COVID-19 information from Premise Health, click here.