Time is Right to Focus on Mental Health

Helping workers thrive during uncertain times

Doctor leaning against wall

New, easy-to-remember 3-digit phone number — 988 — is now live.

There’s no doubt about it. COVID-19 has created lingering problems in every area of life, including work life. U.S. workers, dealing with mental health challenges, are among the most stressed in the world. And unhealthy coping techniques can increase the risk for chronic conditions.

Since pandemic-induced workplace stress isn’t going away any time soon, we urge you to prioritize your well-being, recognize the signs of serious problems and seek help when needed.

Why mental health matters

In multiple studies, Americans have reported high levels of stress, fatigue, substance abuse and sleep problems since the pandemic began. Daily tasks and decision-making have been increasingly difficult, especially for younger adults and parents.

Many workers have faced uncertainty about the future, health fears and financial distress as a result of COVID-19. They’ve also dealt with:

  • Personal struggles such as coping with the loneliness of social isolation or the grief of losing loved ones. Navigating life-altering experiences is always hard but can be especially difficult during a global pandemic and may lead to excessive worry.
  • Professional challenges that include increased workload, shifting workplace protocols and reduced staffing.
  • Family-related demands like helping elder family members or caring for children during school absences have also increased stress, especially among working women.

Although some stress can be tolerated, chronic stress can have emotional and physical consequences. It can lead to depression, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Caring for at-risk groups

The pandemic added to health care disparities faced by several minority groups. Members of these communities are particularly at risk for mental health disorders, which are sometimes dismissed or ignored. For example, in Black and Hispanic communities, discussing stress may be perceived as a weakness, inconsistent with a strong work ethic. As a result, these workers may believe they lack the privilege of downtime or disposable income to decompress.

Finding solutions

Research shows that chronic stressors such as long work hours, financial difficulties and work-life conflict may be as unhealthy as secondhand smoke. Open communication in the workplace is essential to identifying solutions for these stressors and other pandemic-related problems.

Being aware of the common symptoms of stress is also important. These include having trouble concentrating, lacking motivation and feeling uncertain, nervous, sad, anxious or irritable. For those with existing mental health conditions, experts recommend continuing treatment and monitoring any new or worsening symptoms.

Help is available

A good first step during stressful times is to incorporate science-backed healthy habits. Some of these include exercising, meditating and practicing gratitude and positive self-talk.

When lifestyle changes aren’t enough, reach out for help. You can:

  • Contact a health care professional.
  • Use your company’s mental health resources.
  • Call 988. It’s an easy-to-remember number that directly connects you to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). This nationwide service connects those in crisis with suicide prevention and mental health counselors.