The impact of COVID-19 on mental health
Mental Health matters today because the actions taken now by governments and corporations globally will be a game changer for mental health over the next 3-4 years.
Mental health is not just a health issue, but it is also connected to our homes, schools, communities, and workplaces.
As we come out of quarantine and enter the hybrid workplace, and the next stage of our lives. The impact of the pandemic on our emotional health is taking it’ toll, with lots of people experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
From the high levels of social isolation and loneliness to the increase of grief from loss of family and friends, alongside pressures to maintain a high standard of work through these unprecedented times.
It’s an important time to reflect on the wider impact of the pandemic on our wellbeing and the heavy toll it has had on many individuals, businesses and communities.
One of the top issues for supporting mental health, will be the qualified mental health workforce, nurses, psychologists and psychiatrist is rapidly shrinking, and will mean longer waiting times for those seeking traditional help.
Could this be the time to think seriously about an alternative mental health workforce?
Self-care initiatives can be really rewarding for our overall wellbeing, for example sleeping well is beneficial for boosting our emotional resilience. Improving our fitness is likewise a good option to compensate for higher rates of exhaustion, caused by zoom fatigue and sitting down in front of a computer or laptop all day.
Governments have a real opportunity to lead mental health initiatives that are not from the traditional medical settings. Focusing on preventative models which can help to divert away from mental illnesses and the existing illness model.
Mental health support – Accessible, tailored and culturally relevant
Recently in the UK, there have been many investments into the mental health sector and charities, but there has also been a lack of investment into community-based efforts to prevent mental ill health in our societies.
Some individuals have been more severely impacted by the pandemic than others, such as frontline health and social care workers who are more likely to be feeling burned out from the pandemic’s workload.
We have also seen an increase in representation of frontline workers accessing support for PTSD.
During the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, many organisations made bold statements around belonging and culture, particularly for black people and individuals from other diverse backgrounds.
Current mental health support is not tailored or culturally nuanced to support diverse communities, which means more alternative support models need to be provided to move away from a one size fits all approach.
I personally would like to see more support around trauma, particularly racial trauma as the symptoms of race based trauma cause PTSD, as well as depression and anxiety.
Racial trauma is a huge global crisis. People are experiencing it everyday on social media, in the workplace, in their own home and from previous racist events.
What can leaders do to uplift wellbeing?
Given these enduring changes in workforce culture, the increasingly blurred lines between work and home and the physical and mental health challenges that are impacting productivity and increasing presenteeism.
The lack of early interventions is very relevant in the corporate space, where signs of poor mental health are often only caught up in performance management situations, once things become unmanageable.
Leaders should be considering more empathetic and compassionate leadership approaches to support mental health before they become a problem during a disciplinary process or when managing long term sickness absence.
This includes taking more personal responsibility around mental health, not working extensive hours throughout the week or across weekends and sending emails at after 10pm.
Supporting the wellbeing of your employees by taking time off, resting properly and investing in self care is important, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Wellbeing is also connected to culture and how effective you are as a leader. Checking in with your team to make sure their workloads are not over burdening, having the right skills mix and capability in your team, delegating enough power and autonomy for people to carry out tasks in a way that suits different working styles.
A move towards compassionate leadership builds on strengthening individuals and teams to flourish, through strengthening capabilities, empowering people to show up as their true selves, with greater accountability and opportunity.
Is mental health a social responsibility?
A lot of the time we place responsibility on the individual to be accountable for their own healthcare because we don’t have the systems and structures in place to provide earlier interventions of support.
For example, in communities where mental health hasn’t been at the top of the agenda, existing community relationships are harnessed to build wellbeing within these structures.
However, community support also faces barriers due to potential layers of stigma within some of these conversations.
Some struggle with the lack of privacy and having to open up about personal issues with people they know. Therefore, the boundaries and limitations within community support needs to also be considered to allow individuals to feel nourished.
So, where does the responsibility really lie for an individual’s mental health?
We need to start moving away from an individualistic form of doing wellbeing that has become quite commodified and is often not diverse or inclusive. And, instead start thinking about wellbeing from a community perspective.
We can all increase responsibility of one another and come together as a community to bring back a collective sense of wellbeing, where people generally look out for and care for one another.
This approach could also include setting up intentional communities that don’t necessarily live together, but still come together to engage in activities, such as nourishing, connecting and uplifting their wellbeing to increase empowerment on a broader scale.
The most important thing is to find what works for you and give yourself permission. If you’re interested in learning more about how important Race & Mental Health is download our Wellbeing Toolkit