HRE’s number of the day: mental health help

45: Percentage of adults who have considered getting mental health treatment because of the COVID-19 pandemic

Nearly half of some 2,000 adults say they have considered getting mental health treatment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from Vida Health. Meanwhile, the vast majority of those polled (88%) say they’ve experienced at least one of the symptoms that medical professionals use to assess mental health disorders, such as having little interest or pleasure in doing things (52%), having trouble falling or staying asleep (52%) and feeling down, depressed or hopeless (51%).

What it means to HR leaders

The survey is the latest to indicate the significant impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on employees’ mental health. Other reports have found that rates of depression, anxiety, stress and burnout have soared as a result of the pandemic.

Vida Health’s survey found that one out of every six Americans started therapy for the first time in 2020–in sessions that primarily took place virtually due to the pandemic. Fifteen percent are also taking medication for mental health for the first time as of 2020, and another 15% have changed or increased an existing prescription during that same timeframe.

While more employees have sought help, the survey reveals there is still stigma attached to getting mental health treatment–47%, for instance, believe that seeking therapy is a sign of weakness.

Experts say it’s important for company and HR leaders to encourage employees to get mental health help when needed, break down any stigmas attached to mental health and overall be there for employees while they go through stressful events.

“I think we live in a society where there’s a real stigma around mental health. To destigmatize it by saying, ‘If you’re human and you’re awake, this is a difficult time.’ It’s thing on top of thing on top of thing, and it’s really complicated,” Jaime Klein, founder and CEO of consulting firm Inspire Human Resources, told HRE recently.

“HR leaders are not trained social workers; they’re not trained psychologists. It’s not about having the answer, it’s just about listening,” she said. “As a company leader, if you hear that your employee is struggling, then try to strategize with them–move a timeline, redelegate some work when people are trying to feel like themselves.”

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.