Struggling in a pandemic

SHRM survey shows people are struggling, but they’re not reaching out for help

Struggling in a pandemic

Reports of poor mental health amidst the pandemic are definitely emerging to paint a troubling picture, and a new survey out of the U.S. helps provide further detail.

Granted, the U.S. is facing a more dire situation than Canada when it comes to the COVID-19 crisis, but there are insights here that must apply north of the border also.

For instance, 22 to 35 per cent of employees are often reporting experiencing symptoms of depression, according to the survey of 1,099 employees by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This includes:

  • often feeling tired or having little energy often (35 per cent)
  • often feeling bad about themselves, feeling like a failure, feeling like they have let themselves or their family down (23 per cent)
  • often feeling down, depressed or hopeless (23 per cent)
  • often having little interest or pleasure in doing things (22 per cent)
  • often having trouble concentrating (22 per cent)

Those are some sizeable numbers for some troubling mental health issues. And it’s no wonder – two months into the restrictions and lockdowns imposed by the pandemic, there is still a lot of uncertainty about when and if we’ll get back to a new normal.

Looking at the news overseas, regions such as China and South Korea are still challenged by outbreaks amidst loosening constraints. Canada has to be watching these developments with a keen eye, wondering how exactly it should follow suit with the hopes of avoiding further complications. We’ve all heard of the potential for a second wave in the fall, but what if the first wave lasts longer than expected?

Younger generations suffering more

There are also notable differences among the generations. Gen Z (31 per cent) is having the greatest difficulty concentrating, compared to millennials (21 per cent), gen X (23 per cent) and baby boomers (11 per cent).

The same is true when it comes to employees feeling tired or having little energy: gen Z (44 per cent), millennials (35 per cent), gen X (33 per cent) and baby boomers (26 per cent).

And the same pattern is seen when it comes to employees feeling emotionally drained from work: gen Z (47 per cent), millennials (43 per cent), gen X (32 per cent) and baby boomers (29 per cent).

This really highlights the need for employers, people leaders and HR to check in frequently with younger employees to see how they’re coping through these very tough times. Whether it’s a simple “How’s your work going these days?” or “How are you feeling about all this?” those simple questions could be the trigger people need to express their concerns, and hopefully alleviate some of their anxiety.

People aren’t reaching out

Because they may not be talking to anyone else: More than one-third (37 per cent) of employees say they haven’t done anything to cope with depression-related symptoms, found the survey.

And for all the talk of telemedicine and virtual health, not many people are reaching out to professionals to deal with their depression amidst the pandemic. Two in five employees have reached out to family and friends, just one in 10 have reached out to colleagues – and a mere seven per cent have reached out to a mental health professional.

These are not the kinds of stats we want to see, especially with all the talk to the importance of mental health over the past few years. While awareness might be up, accessing help is not. That’s not a good combination.

Employers should do their part to not only provide specific resources and guidance that can help during this kind of crisis, but highlight their benefits and professional services in the form of EAPs or mental health professionals. People are hurting and with so many isolated at home or working hard on the front lines, any support must be welcome.

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