Workers’ risks of developing depression, anxiety and other mental issues have declined since last month, according to Total Brain’s latest Mental Health Index. But those risks still are significantly higher than they were at the start of COVID-19, proving the pandemic is causing serious—and chronic—mental health issues.
“[Mental health] is significantly more negative overall,” Total Brain CEO Louis Gagnon said Friday during a webinar discussing the results, adding that female and younger employees have been hit harder by mental health issues. From July to August, the risk of anxiety among employees declined 7% while depression risk declined by 23%. Still, depression risk is 56% higher now than pre-pandemic, while anxiety risk is 45% higher than in February. The index, in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute, is based on 500 anonymized assessments randomly selected among thousands of Total Brain assessments taken each week.
Though it’s positive that mental health risks have decreased some since last month, “the numbers themselves are shocking,” said Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance. The numbers point to the fact that mental health issues are becoming more chronic and, potentially, a bigger issue that won’t go away any time soon.
Mental health issues will “far exceed the duration and impact of COVID itself,” said Garen Staglin, chairman of One Mind at Work. “There’s no vaccine for anxiety. There’s no vaccine for depression.” In addition to COVID-19 and its associated effects, a weak job market, racial tensions and the upcoming election are adding to employees’ anxieties. “All of this is impacting our lives,” he said.
Additionally, there are many more anxieties at home as the lines of domestic life blur with those of work and school, said Colleen McHugh, executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association.
Although many employers are making strides on mental health benefits and other programs aimed to help employees, significant work remains.
“The time is now to take action,” Staglin said. “Don’t wait until the wakeup call of a suicide in your workplace demands you to take action. I promise if you don’t take action, you will have that wakeup call.”