COVID-19 and mental health
A lot of people are very frightened at the moment and this is only going to deepen. This pandemic will have a huge impact on our collective mental health, particularly the 1 in 4 among us who are already living with a mental health problem, and who will be experiencing an intensification of their symptoms (as spoken to in the guardian recently). We are likely to witness major disruption to health-care, education and economic systems, introducing uncertainty and complexity on an unprecedented scale to both organisations and families. It’s difficult to overstate how much change there will be in people’s lives, and one of the most stressful things you can do to a human being is subject them to too much change too quickly (it’s called future shock).
For the many that are self-isolating, social interaction and wellbeing practices, which support many against poor mental health, are being severely impacted. The Mental Health Strategic Partnership advised in a 2013 report that there are three core pillars that help us maintain mental resilience in times of adversity. They are:
- Social Capital (strong relationships)
- Wellbeing (feeling good and functioning well)
- Psychological coping strategies (skills to manage thoughts & emotions)
Our experience is that many employees are ill-equipped to face what is coming down the road, especially with social isolation requirements being enforced more strictly.
Social Capital & Wellbeing
We are likely to see a decrease in ‘Social Capital’ as people lose access to their social environments (e.g. work, pubs, attending birthdays etc.) and pressure is placed on families. These domains of social interaction are central to providing a mental health buffer against the challenges that many individuals face. Pre-pandemic life most often involved families separated for much of the day, with parents at different workplaces and kids at school, all spending much of their day over-stimulated and without much ‘free time’. With schools cancelled and most employees working from home, many families will realise they don’t have the necessary habits or skills to suddenly ‘be together’. Being isolated in homes amidst this crisis will put huge pressure on family units.
We will also see a reduction in wellbeing, as people’s regular wellness rituals, like going to the gym, attending exercise classes, or volunteering in local projects get cancelled. For many, these represent their primary, and often only, coping mechanisms. As we work from home, we will likely have less structure and routine, move less and drink less water – all will have their own impact.
Skills to manage thoughts & emotions
With major shortfall in these two areas, people will need to rely more on ‘skills to manage thoughts and emotions’ (often the lowest scoring area, on average).
These skills will be “put to the test” as daily paranoia, confusion and overwhelm related to the pandemic intensifies, not to mention potential relationship strain at home. A tiny fraction of the adult population have any training in this whatsoever.
A gap in meaningful support for individuals
State mental health services are currently underfunded and overstretched, and will not be able to meet the surge in demand within the population. This emerging era requires businesses to step into this gap in order to ensure that the people they employ have the cognitive, emotional and social skills they need to cope.
Now is the moment for organisations to invest resources in equipping their people with what they need to be mentally resilient in the face of this global pandemic and social isolation. We need to help individuals and groups transition from ‘endurance’ mode to ‘resilience’ mode.
Tough Cookie are in a position to bring much needed skills to many people, and we would love to collaborate wiith you over the coming months to reach those that need them. We are offering a tailored digital version of our Mixed Mental Arts™ programme over this period, so those who are struggling with self-isolation, or overwhelmed by narratives around COVID-19, can be supported.
Mixed Mental Arts™ focuses explicitly on ‘skills to manage thoughts and emotions’, which people need now more than ever. Our specialist team of resilience trainers will equip your team with the skills they need to manage their thoughts and emotions and cope effectively during the pandemic and beyond.
As the Haitian proverb says, “A leaky house can fool the sun, but it can’t fool the rain.”
The sooner we act together the better – let’s collaborate to build the mental resilience of your employees.