From education to employment

Data shows depression has doubled during Covid

The number of adults in the UK with depression has doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is prompting calls for businesses to prioritise support to avert a looming mental health crisis. 

The research also revealed that:

  • One in five (19 per cent) people experienced some form of depression in June this year, almost double the 9.7 per cent with symptoms in the nine months leading up to March. 
  • One in eight (13 per cent) had developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic. 
  • 85% of those experiencing some kind of depression said feeling stressed or envious was most strongly compromising their wellbeing. 

Whilst we navigate this global shift to remote work – which for some will likely become a permanent transition – mental health needs to remain high on the agenda for employers. Under many pieces of legislation enacted by the UK such as the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 and the Equality Act 2010 etc, employers have a duty of care for employees’ health, safety and wellbeing whilst at work – and this extends to their mental health. UK legislation requires employers to assess mental health work-related issues to measure the levels of risk to staff on an ongoing basis.

We are already witnessing a spike in mental health implications since the beginning of lockdown, and this will likely continue. New research from Samaritans found that 42% of UK men said their mental health had been negatively affected by life in lockdown, and 56% said they feel worried or anxious as restrictions ease. 

Employers need to prioritise mental health and wellbeing, and there are a couple of easy suggestions for this. Promoting face-to-face coffee breaks, socially distanced catch-ups and regular check-ins at work can go a long way towards promoting connectedness within any business setting. Companies who have regular video conferences are not only proven to be more productive, but help combat feelings of isolation, loneliness, and encourage open-conversations across the organisation. 

Mental health is a huge problem both in and outside of the office. Now is a good time for business leaders to put policies in place and to practice what they preach. It is promising to see more and more companies nominating health and wellbeing champions, trained by advisors and practitioners to help recognise and support employee wellbeing. There is a changing culture when it comes to mental health at work, but still more work needs to be done. Organisations should embrace and encourage positive mental health initiatives and be supporting employees as best they can – not just during our current lockdown situation, but at all times going forward.

Kathryn Barnes, European Employment Counsel at Globalization Partners

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