Mental Health Awareness Month
Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.*
As we collectively move through the coronavirus pandemic, we are becoming increasingly aware of the multiple effects it is having on all of us. Some are dealing with the loss of a loved one or unemployment, while others may be coping with feelings of isolation and loneliness due to social distancing. Regardless, one thing we all have in common is the need for connection, and recovery from stress. Without that, we are all vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a time for employers to consider the importance of supporting the emotional well-being of their employees, especially during this time of crisis. Mental health is critical to employee safety and productivity, and affects the well-being of a company. The World Health Organization reports, for every U.S. $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of U.S. $4 in improved health and productivity.
Benefit from experience and human connection
What’s a simple way to assist? There are many resources available on managing stress and other mental health concerns. They run the gamut from mindfulness and meditation to escaping with books or movies. One of the most beneficial activities – especially in these months of physical and social distancing – is talking to someone. Making a personal connection and discussing how we feel, can be extremely helpful.
Thanks to technology, we’re able to socially distance without socially isolating. Most well-being organizations now offer virtual counseling and health coaching sessions on a variety of health-related topics. According to Preferred EAP Director Carolyn Lamparella, EdS, LPC, “It is essential to provide employees an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings openly with a professional who can guide them through the coping process and help them manage their stress and fears more effectively.”
For many people, it’s easier to be open with a neutral party, such as a professional counselor or health coach, because we tend to shield our friends and families from our most distressing emotions. A professional is able to listen without judgement and assist you with addressing your unique concerns by offering concrete skills and strategies to help you feel better.
The difference between health coaching and counseling
Health coaching and counseling share some similarities, but offer distinctly different approaches to managing stress and other health-related concerns.
Licensed professional counselors and social workers, like those employed by a company’s EAP, are available immediately to address urgent needs. Individual sessions are strictly confidential, and can be done virtually by phone or video visit. Typically, EAPs offer three to five counseling sessions, to allow time for you and the counselor develop a connection and address your individual concerns. Some of these concerns may include a specific mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, or relationship concerns such as marital discord, family conflict, or workplace disputes. Counseling is also beneficial for those who are simply overwhelmed by life’s challenges and in need of support.
Confidential health coaching, facilitated by a certified or board-certified health coach, is built on goal-setting, and is a participant-centered, collaborative process. Participants are usually interested in improving their health, and the coach is there to support and motivate them. “Managing stress during the pandemic has been a common reason for contacting a health coach,” says Kristin Behler, MPH, MCHES®, Director, Health Promotion and Wellness, with BeneFIT Corporate Wellness. “However, coaching is highly versatile and can address a wide variety of other areas such as eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco, increasing physical activity, and managing weight.” Health coaching is also provided through an employer, can be conducted by phone or video visit, and can incorporate online self-tracking and aggregate reporting for employers.
Share your concerns, lighten your load
Even though the coronavirus has impacted all of us differently, we can take comfort in knowing there are experienced professionals available to help. They understand how stress affects our body and mind and are trained in strategies and techniques to help us overcome the negative effects and cope more effectively. Employers should feel reassured that we are here to help as employees return to work and establish new ways of operating, connecting, and staying healthy in the workplace.
While times may be uncertain, you are not alone. Connecting with one another will help us maintain the ties that bind us during stressful days and weather the storms ahead.
For more information about health coaching, EAP counseling, or other return to work services: