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Pandemic-induced mental health issues on the rise

Latisha Lister-Burgess, EAP executive director (File photograph)

Since the pandemic began, the Employee Assistance Programme has seen an uptick in managers needing help dealing with employee mental health issues.

“Many managers are good at dealing with work projects, but not so good at dealing with employee feelings and emotions,” said EAP executive director Latisha Lister-Burgess.

So next month, EAP will offer Supporting Staff in Crisis, a two-hour course for managers.

“The course will talk about the nature of depression and anxiety and the risk factors for them,” Ms Lister-Burgess said. “We will look at what are reasonable accommodations. We will look at what organisations should be doing to help.“

They will be offering a similar course for employees, Supporting People in Crisis. This course will be more focused on supporting family, friends or co/workers with mental health issues.

Last month, the World Health Organisation reported that anxiety and depression have increased more than 25 per cent since the pandemic began.

This is in keeping with what Ms Lister-Burgess is seeing at EAP.

“EAP has seen a huge uptick in people using our services,” Ms Lister-Burgess said. “We are seeing a lot more people coming in with depression and anxiety and navigating work/life pressures.”

Ms Lister-Burgess thought the increased isolation brought about by social distancing is contributing to the problem.

"We are meant to be social creatures,” she said. “We are meant to be together.”

And she said the pandemic is just plain stressful for many people including herself.

“My family has never had Covid-19, but we have been quarantined five times,” she said.

Ms Lister-Burgess said many people still working from home are cut off from their usual village of support.

She said women have been particularly hard hit. Half of all women now struggle with mental health issues such as depression compared with a third of men.

She thought this was because women are often the main caregivers in the family.

“More women are leaving the workforce than men right now,” she said.

“The expectations for working parents have not kept pace with the reality of Covid-19. From my own life, as result of Covid-19, my older son does not have a before-school care programme. Before the pandemic, you could drop your child off ahead of time, and pay a little extra money. Not everyone’s life starts at 8.30am.”

And as she has children to drop off in Sandys, it is hard to get to town before 9.30am. She said if she worked for a less supportive employer her situation could be very stressful.

“There are all of these things happening behind the scenes that are directly impacting people’s lives,” she said.

When many companies discuss employee wellness, they talk about exercise programmes or healthy food options in the staff room. Ms Lister-Burgess thinks more companies need to add staff mental health to their list of priorities.

Supporting Staff in Crisis will be a virtual class held on May 10 from 9.30am to 11.30am. The cost is $200. Supporting People in Crisis will be on May 17 from 9.30am to 11.30am. That cost is $150.

There will also be several free mental health classes offered next month, such as developing a mental health plan, handling stress and anxiety and helping children with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

For the full list of free webinars, or to sign up, see eap.bm/webinars. To enrol in EAP’s paid courses e-mail accounts@eap.bm.

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Published May 03, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated May 04, 2022 at 7:55 am)

Pandemic-induced mental health issues on the rise

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