HRE’s number of the day: mental health

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A tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, conducted March 25-30, finds that nearly half of Americans polled say the pandemic has harmed their mental health–and 19% say it has had a “major impact.” That’s up from two weeks earlier, when a mid-March survey from the organization found that 32% of Americans polled said the pandemic had harmed their mental health. Meanwhile, women were 16% more likely to say that coronavirus-related worry or stress had a negative impact on their mental health, compared to men (53% vs. 37%).

What it means to HR leaders

There’s no question the COVID-19 pandemic is placing a big burden on employees’ mental health. And as repercussions from the pandemic continue, expect the number of Americans who say the situation is harming their mental health to rise. “It’s difficult for the most resilient of us right now. And for those who are vulnerable in any number of ways, it’s that much more challenging,” says LuAnn Heinen, vice president of wellbeing and workforce strategy at the Business Group on Health. “Those who have been struggling with mental health conditions are significantly disadvantaged with COVID. There are new stressors, family stressors, work–all of that and everyone adjusting to a new reality. It’s very difficult.”

Those challenges are shining a light on employers’ mental health programs and benefits, and causing more HR and benefits leaders to quickly expand, roll out or communicate existing mental health benefits, apps and other resources in an effort to help employees. Experts say that is happening at a rapid pace with employers trying to keep up.

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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.