Pandemic hits mental health

We’re all well aware of the impact that Covid-19  has had on people’s physical health, but what effect has the pandemic had on people’s mental health? A new study has found that a quarter of adults have developed mental health issues over the last 18 months.

The mental health pandemic

Around one in four adults – the equivalent of more than 13.3 million people – have developed mental health issues because of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, new research* from digital board game group Marmalade Game Studio shows.

Concerns over health and worries about loved ones added to financial worries have driven a rise in mental health issues with anxiety and stress the conditions affecting the most people, the research found.

The research shows 54% of adults say they have suffered from a range of issues including stress, anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts since the crisis started in March 2020.

However, 25% of people say their mental health issues only started because of the pandemic while a third (31%) who were concerned about their mental health before the crisis say the impact of COVID-19 made them feel worse.

Around two out of five people (38%) say they have suffered from stress or anxiety during the crisis while around one in four (26%) say they have been depressed at points during the ups and downs of the pandemic. Nearly one in 10 (9%) say they have been plagued by suicidal thoughts at times.

The research for Marmalade Game Studio shows 44% of adults say their mental health has been fine during the crisis. Around one in 20 (5%) – the equivalent of 2.8 million people – say their mental health has even improved during the crisis.

Cristina Mereuta, co-CEO at Marmalade Game Studio, said: “The combination of a global health crisis and a global economic crisis is bound to have affected mental health and made people feel stressed and anxious.

“People have had to cope often on their own because of the impact of lockdowns without being able to talk to others about their very real worries about their own situation and that of loved ones.”

How to tackle mental health problems in the workplace

Stress could be the biggest driver of workplace mental health. It  can affect employees of all levels to varying degrees, and can manifest in different ways. As an employer or manager, you should look out for the following signs:

  • Change in an employees normal behaviour (irritability/ withdrawn/unpredictability)
  • Change in an employees appearance
  • Suddenly late for work more often
  • Sudden lack of concentration or commitment
  • Taking a lot of time off work

If you see any of these signs in your employees, it’s important to do whatever you can to help reduce the daily pressures while trying to get to the bottom of the issue. This could mean taking steps to share the workload or take time out to create a better working environment.

On the flip side, overworking can also be a sign of – or a precursor to – mental health issues.

If staff are regularly staying at their desks through lunch or juggling multiple tasks at once, this inability to switch off can be negatively impacting their health. Even though they’re at their desk longer, this can lead to drop in productivity, which can also affect the output of your business.

If this is the case, remind employees that lunch breaks should be used to get away from their work. Instead of working through, they should take a walk, socialise with other members of staff, or even sit and read a book, anything to help them switch off from work.

Offering employees the chance to work away from the office can also help reduce stress and increase productivity, particularly if they have a stressful commute to the office, but try to limit the amount of out-of-hours work they take home – an ‘always-on‘ culture is no good for anyone.

It might also be worth trying initiatives such as ‘Well-being Wednesdays’, to encourage exercise and healthy eating among employees – a healthy body really can be the key to a healthy mind.

No matter how you decide to tackle the issue of mental health, the important thing to remember is it affects different people in different ways, so always encourage people to talk about any problems they might be having, in complete confidence, and take steps to help them through any difficulties.

How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem is a guide from Mind that offers advice on how to create a culture that encourages staff to be open about mental health and useful tips on how to have a conversation with someone about their mental health.

If you feel like you or someone you know could be experiencing mental health problems, get in touch with Mind on 0330 123 3393 or text 86463.

For more, check out our blog on why your business has to tackle mental health head on.