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Upsurge In Depression And Suicide Among American Workers During The Pandemic And What Needs To Be Done

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A study by Mental Health Index published this month shows the risk for depression among U.S. workers has risen an alarming 102% since February of this year. The escalating threat of developing depressive mood disorder shows little sign of abating, according to the study. Between June and July, the risk of depression climbed a staggering 31%.

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, powered by Total Brain, is a leading mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform. It is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind At Work, the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute. The Mental Health Index contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users. The Index is NOT a survey or a poll. Data is culled from neuroscientific brain assessments using standardized digital tasks and questions from the Total Brain platform. Participants include workers from all walks of life and regions, job levels, occupations, industries and types of organizations (public vs. private). The brain assessments used to compile the Mental Health Index were taken weekly from February 3 to August 2, 2020.

Climbing Rates Of Depression Among Workers

Total Brain’s clinically-validated brain assessments show millennials are among the most emotionally vulnerable working Americans in the COVID-19 era:

  • Ages 20-39 have a 101% higher risk of depression and a 132% greater risk of general anxiety disorder than their middle-aged counterparts (ages 40-59);
  • This age group has a 305% higher risk of depression than their baby boomer colleagues (ages 60+).

These findings come on the heels of new CDC data revealing one in four young adults say they have considered suicide in the past month because of the coronavirus. According to Chuck Columbus, CEO of the American Health Policy Institute, “COVID-19 is only accelerating an already alarming mental health crisis in the U.S.” And Louis Gagnon, CEO of Total Brain, said, “People are experiencing sustained elevation in stress and anxiety levels like never before. The fact that the risk of developing clinical depression continues to escalate at such a disturbing rate comes as little surprise. Depression is the manifestation of months of chronic stress and anxiety overload.” 

Steps You Can Take

Some of the signs of depression are isolation, poor job performance, sudden change in an employee’s personality, loss of interest in the job, expressions of hopelessness, burnout, fatigue, chronic absenteeism or subtle suicide threats such as, “This job would be better without me in it” or “I might not be around to put my name in the hat for that promotion.” If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Contact Mental Health America to find resources closest to you or call 1-800-273-8255, a 24 hour crisis center. You can also call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 at the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline. Trained crisis workers will listen to you and direct you to the resources you need. In an emergency, call 911 or contact a local hospital or mental health facility.

Michael Thompson, President and CEO of National Alliance, said, “With the resurgence of the virus in July, it is clear that we will not be getting back to normal any time soon.” So what are the next steps? Garen Staglin, Chairman of One Mind at Work, suggests that employers get on board to support employees who suffer depression and other mental health issues: “The most recent data shows the increasing urgency for employers to take seriously the mental health of their workforce. The significant increase in risk for depression among Millennials is a reminder that those in their late 20s and 30s are experiencing even more adverse mental health effects from the pandemic than other age ranges. Workplaces have unique opportunities to support their employees’ well-being and we hope this data is a catalyst for more action.” And Columbus believes it’s time to boldly rethink the delivery of behavioral health services.

One in five people will be affected by mental illness over the course of their lifetime. Increasingly, employers are educating themselves on the importance of mental health for a sustainable workforce. They know your job performance is contingent on mental health care and that overall good mental health among employees is an asset and an investment for both themselves and the company. Perhaps the most important step is for each of us to make our mental wellness a priority at work and take steps to protect it on a daily basis.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2020/08/22/upsurge-in-depression-and-suicide-among-american-workers-during-the-pandemic-and-what-needs-to-be-done/

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