As we also approach the one-year anniversary of the start of this pandemic in the United States it felt fitting to reflect upon how this pandemic has impacted employee mental health and the rise in substance abuse related concerns. This past weekend was Black Balloon Day, a day set aside to recognize and honor lives lost due to overdoses, and many honored loved ones and colleagues they have lost over the past year following mental health issues this pandemic exacerbated.
The increased demand to move employees from working in offices to setting up shop at the kitchen drove many employees to search for a way to cope with issues they may have been avoiding. Mental health matters such as depression, anxiety, and stress increased for many as they navigated the new normal. A 2021 New York University School of Global Public Health survey of 5,850 people who drink alcohol found that 29 percent have increased their drinking during the pandemic. However, some populations are more vulnerable than others. For example, those experiencing depression were 64 percent more likely to increase drinking, while those with anxiety were 41 percent more likely to do so. Similarly, 40 percent of people under age 40 report increased drinking compared to 30 percent of those 40 to 59 years old and 20 percent of those over 60.
As business owners and human resources professionals, this has caused new troubles as they explore ways to support staff that can be scattered across the community. One way some are hoping to reach out and connect with their staffs is to communicate the resources available to them through the company. Resources can range from helping to identify warning signs of an addiction/substance abuse issue, to promoting Employee Assistance Programs offered routinely, to encouraging positive outlets to relive stresses.
For small businesses owners who do not have the luxury of an HR department it can seem daunting to locate the resources out there. A good place to begin is working with your health care or insurance company to find out what materials they have created to share with your employees. Other good places to compile information from are free resources available to your company through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's websites: SAMHSA.gov and Drugabuse.gov.
By sharing these resources routinely with your staff it’s another way you can help them realize they are not going through this pandemic alone and that there are others out there who care about them.