Shortly after the pandemic, the world turned upside down, and the U.S. was on the brink of another health crisis. From isolation to suicide, the fear of the unknown for Americans caused nationwide psychological trauma.          

Even before Covid-19, the U.S. was facing a mental health crisis: upwards of 20% of the country’s adult population met criteria for poor mental health and the majority of people (55%-70%) did not receive care. This was due, in equal parts, to an overburdened system and to stigmatized beliefs.

Data shows depression and anxiety are already rampant in the country. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation investigation, nearly half of Americans report that the coronavirus crisis affects their mental health. A federal hotline for people with emotional problems saw an increase of more than 1,000% in April 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. 

Online therapy company Talkspace has reported a 65% increase in its clients since spring 2020. Text messages and transliterated treatment sessions collected anonymously by the company show that top patients’ concerns have been fear of Covid-19.                  

Just as the country has taken radical measures to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with infections, experts say it must adapt to the next wave of behavioral health needs by providing comprehensive mental health screenings, better access to services through telemedicine, and proper medical intervention. 

The Rise of EAPs during COVID 19

A valuable resource for employers during times of crisis is the employee assistance program (EAP). A high percentage of companies have an existing EAP as a part of their employee benefits program. Now, more than ever, is the time to make full use of this resource partner.

EAPs can help employees navigate the difficult and unprecedented times of Covid-19. What’s more, an EAP can also assist with the many life challenges that are still to come. Employers can safeguard their employees’ mental health and wellbeing while taking steps towards protecting their businesses from the negative impacts of reduced productivity and engagement.

Employers who understand the value of employee benefits programs will fare much better than those that guess which programs will be effective. This is an ideal time for businesses to re-assess their current well-being offerings to ensure the programs they are investing in align with the needs of their workforce.

Create a supporting work environment through employee communications            

It’s essential that employers make sure employees are aware of the wellness offerings available to them and how to use them. Getting through the pandemic, it’s more critical than ever for businesses to increase their communications to employees around wellbeing programs that can help provide physical, mental and emotional support through the pandemic and beyond.

 However, many HR professionals leading mental health efforts don’t know how best to leverage these communication pathways. Here are four practical steps to help you create messages that resonate, drive action, and keep employees engaged.

  • Ongoing virtual wellness webinars across your organization.
  • As part of your business reopening plan, you have a deluge of information to share about what your operations will look like in a post-heightened pandemic setting.
  • If you’re introducing new mental health tools or reminding employees about tools they may not have used before, you’ll want to give comprehensive, step-by-step instructions for getting started. 
  • When you share public health and safety information with employees, it should come from credible sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state health departments, and reputable medical organizations and journals.

Whether you are eventually bringing employees back to your office or decide to keep a remote workplace, focusing on mental health is especially important currently and as companies move into the readjustment phase.