Recent news shows that the nation continues its downward trend in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. However, despite these encouraging statistics, America now faces an uptick in mental health illnesses caused by years of stress, anxiety and fear fueled in part by an unrelenting pandemic.
Tea US Worker Edition of the Mental Health Index recently compared current percentages of mental health cases to pre-pandemic percentages, and the findings are disturbing. HAS global study researching the universality of mental health issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic calculated that during 2020, major depression rose by approximately 53 million cases and anxiety disorders by 76 million cases. Results from a random sampling of 500 American workers show that a quarter of workers continue to suffer with PTSD and that cases of depression have also escalated, rising 87% since the fall of 2021. These statistics mark a 136% and 63% increase, respectively , since the start of the pandemic. In addition, in March 2022 report found that throughout the pandemic, after every surge in COVID-19 cases, mental health emergency room visits increased exponentially at a rate higher than during COVID illness surges or prior to the pandemic.
In light of these trends, employers can expect no decline in mental health issues in the short term; moreover, the mental health fallout is predicted to last for years. Even now, while Americans take a respite from strict safety protocols, it is important to remember that variants continue to develop. There are reports contending that depending on a variant’s aggressiveness, highly infectious mutations may affect people despite their vaccination status or received immunity. Therefore, it is imperative that employers remain vigilant in attending to employees’ mental health needs.
The pandemic also affects people differently. For instance, at the end of 2021, men’s addiction cases were up 80%, and since the beginning of 2022, cases of depression among men have increased by 118% while men’s social anxiety was up by 162%. For men ages 40-59, general anxiety percentages have increased 94%. Women have also struggled particularly on the job, as they make up 70% of the health and social sector jobs and hold many of the essential and frontline worker positions. In the first five months of the pandemic, women had already suffered an enormous influx of mental health disorders, with anxiety levels rising 52%, depressive symptoms 83%, general anxiety 98% and depression 177%.
Employers can assist workers by offering evidenced-based, work-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (W-CBT) to teach them how to interrupt their negative thought patterns so they can reclaim their emotional health and better manage their lives, even in the face of stress and anxiety. Additionally, due to early identification and intervention, W-CBT has shown up to 50% cost savings in total claim costs in workers’ compensation, and workers are able to restore their mental health more compared to other approaches to worker recovery, benefiting both the employee and the employer.
The emotional impact from COVID-19 has been swift, strong and lengthy, and the mental health issues brought about by the pandemic are expected to last for many years. Yet, incorporating customized treatment options that include W-CBT as part of an employee assistance program will provide a long-term solution that serves employees’ mental health and wellbeing.