Three-quarters of employers see demand surging for mental health support during pandemic

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More than three-quarters of employers have seen an increase in requests for mental health and wellbeing support since the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new report.

Nine in 10 respondents to a survey conducted by the Reward and Benefits Association (REBA), in association with Unmind, said they were offering more mental health support as a result of Covid-19, while 88% felt the virus would encourage greater mental health support backing from their board or senior management.

It appeared more staff were opening up about their mental health to their employers and colleagues: 78.7% said conversations had increased among employees, and 8.5% said they had greatly increased.

The increase among senior managers was even more marked, with three-fifths (60.3%) of respondents reporting an increase in mental health discussions at this level and more than a quarter (27.7%) finding that these conversations had greatly increased.

The impact the virus has had on mental wellbeing is likely to be significant, according to the Covid-19 and employee mental health research, with around 85% of businesses suggesting that the virus has had, or will have, a negative impact on the mental wellbeing of its staff.

REBA director Debi O’Donovan said: “Attitudes towards mental health in the workplace have been changing steadily for the last decade but the lockdown has most definitely accelerated this. As more people, especially in senior leadership teams, speak openly about the impacts of the pandemic on wellbeing, it is great to see a shift among board directors towards actioning change.

“It is important that we invest now and adopt a proactive approach to prevent problems arising and ensure we are supporting our employees as much as possible throughout a period that will continue to be strenuous on their mental health.”

Dr Nick Taylor, CEO and co-founder of Unmind, added: “Our mental health is determined by many aspects of life, from physical fitness and sleep, to friendship networks and family relationships, to self-esteem and mindset. These areas are interwoven, with each impacting the next, and the virus has impacted every facet. To help us lead a mentally healthy and balanced life, we should think of ourselves as the sum of all of those parts, and do what we can to nourish each.”

The majority of organisations, 88%, felt they were either prepared or very prepared to adequately support the mental health of all of their employees.

Seventy per cent said they would be increasing investment in mental health support over the next 12 months.

Seventeen per cent said they would increase investment in occupational health services, while 11% said they had already increased investment in this area.

Some 151 UK organisations took part in the survey, including household names such as Marks & Spencer, John Lewis Partnership, DHL Supply Chain and TSB. Together they represented around half a million employees.

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