Establishing a Culture of Mental Health Sensitivity
Mental and behavioral health needs are on the rise. This is especially true for essential workers on the front lines, who are at the greatest risk for the emotional toll that daily exposure to COVID can create. This session at RIMS 2021 highlighted the guidance, tools and support needed to take a proactive, engaged stance in addressing collective trauma.
- Beth Burry, Senior Vice President, Case Management, Clinically Integrated Programs, Sedgwick
- Mark Debus, Behavioral Health Team Lead, Sedgwick
Essential workers are facing some mental health enormous challenges right now. They are on the front lines every day, seeing COVID and its effects much more clearly than the public. On top of the stress that surrounds seeing this influx of death and extreme illness, they have to hear polarized opinions from some about if the virus is real and that some are refusing to be vaccinated. Those that are refusing to simply wear a mask are challenging the very sense of safety they feel in their jobs. After a year of being exposed to this compound collective trauma, we are starting to see repetitive stress reactions like anxiety, depression, insomnia and even PTSD. There are several strategies to help them cope.
Employees: Focus on Individual Resilience
What can the individual do to cope with elements of the trauma they are experiencing on a daily basis? One example would be to set a time limit on media and social media consumption. The term “doom scrolling” was coined this year and that can have real effects on mental health. On social media, it is important to focus on following and engaging with a support system – friends, family and other outlets that are going to be emotionally nourishing for the individual.
Employers: Lead with Empathy
Try to understand the emotional circumstances your employees are in and communicate that empathy to them. Everyone is dealing with stress right now, so it is important to be up front and open in these communications. Employers that ignore this do so at great peril to their employees and, ultimately, the organization’s bottom line. It is one thing to get it, but letting employees know you get it goes a long way towards fostering trust and retention. In these communications, provide reliable, fact-based information (i.e. cite where you got your information).
Be aware of the toll that COVID-related demands could be putting on your employees, like long hours, and make sure they feel appreciated and supported. Help address emotional and grief needs by providing support hotlines or access to counselling. Most will not ask for help, but when it is proactively approached, employees are more likely to engage.