Without seeing colleagues or employees face to face, in a room where you can assess body language and have a frank conversation, how easy is it to spot a mental health problem? Pretty tricky, according to International SOS. To help both employees and employers cope, the health and security specialist has launched a tool called “Spot the risk – mental health”.
The aim of the open access platform is to help organisations spot and tackle psychological distress. Through an interactive online quiz, it provides information on the indicators and influences on the mental health of an employee.
“With the current levels of uncertainty and pressures in many people’s lives, mental health awareness is a pressing issue for individuals and organisations alike,” International SOS Group Medical Director of Assistance Dr Neil Nerwich said. “Increasing knowledge, accessing professional support, learning how to cope with psychological distress and being aware of the stress that others may be under can be of great help.”
In the last few months, many reports and studies have flagged that increased homeworking and health worries have triggered a rise in mental health issues. One-third (33%) of Americans have reported stress, anxiety and great sadness since the start of the pandemic, according to The Commonwealth Fund. This is higher than the other 10 high-income countries analysed by the survey, which also found that Americans are the most likely to “report negative economic consequences because of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
A survey from the charity Mind of 16,000 individuals similarly found that 60% of people are experiencing higher levels of mental ill-health than before the pandemic, a figure that hits 74% among people aged 18-24. As reported by Bisnow, the line between work stress and life is being eroded and employers need to be aware.
By launching its tool, International SOS is hoping to educate both employees and employers about how to spot a potential mental health problem before it takes root. The questions in the tool spell out what stress looks like and how to communicate effectively with employees. Sections are also geared toward encouraging people to seek help if they feel under stress, including pointers for how to work effectively from home while protecting mental health.
“Providing access to information and raising awareness can help to foster an encouraging and positive environment,” said Affinity Health at Work Chartered Occupational Psychologist Dr Rachel Lewis, who designed the tool alongside Nerwich. “Empowering employees can also help in moving mindsets to adapt to new challenges and changes. The tool provides a good first step in building awareness around mental health and mental ill-health.”
International SOS is by no means the only organisation looking to highlight the impact that the global pandemic, and specifically increased homeworking, is having on people. Various U.S. states have recognised the growing mental health challenges people are facing. Houston Health Department is looking to launch a program called “Let’s Beat COVID-19: Health Education and Support Services” that includes a helpline and online resources.
The Center for Workplace Mental Health has created both a guide for employees who are working remotely during the pandemic and a guide for employers. Nonprofit Mind Share Partners has developed a guide “Supporting employee mental health during the coronavirus epidemic”. The general message is that until the pandemic is shifted, everyone needs to be on high alert both for themselves and their colleagues.