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Blog & News

The Case for Hope Overcomes Anxiety, Stress, Depression, and Despair

As a former USAF officer during the Vietnam war, it was said that prisoners of war who survived years as guests at the Hanoi Hilton were those who were able to maintain a tangible hope for the future. For some, they simply got up and shaved every morning with whatever instrument they could muster, even a shard of glass. The tenacity of accomplishing this simple task allowed their hope to overcome the potential reality of consuming despair that crouched at their door every day.

It seems that we are going through a similar level of isolation as Covid-19 has either reduced or at times taken away our source of hope, daily purpose, joy in life, and personal fulfillment. We work-at-home with zoom call  after zoom call after zoom call. We have lost the camaraderie of the workplace, knowing and sharing the lives of others. We social distance when we do manage to go out, we are quarantined from family – particularly if they are older and at risk – and many of us live in fear of what we do not know and cannot control. The pandemic tends to squash hope and has made it increasingly difficult to maintain a salubrious mental health environment.

Work pressures can have an adverse effect on an employee’s mental health and result in increased feelings of loneliness; the coronavirus outbreak is providing the greatest stress test of the impact of isolation on the workforce. Indeed, 61% of people reported that they feel lonely, according to Cigna’s 2020 Loneliness Index, which was released before COVID-19 made its way to the U.S. Contributing factors to this feeling of loneliness include an uptick in use of technology, more telecommuting and the always-on work culture.

“The percentage of people having daily in-person, meaningful connections with other people continues to decrease,” says Dr. Doug Nemecek, chief medical officer for behavioral health at Cigna. “We know that technology also creates issues in preventing us from developing those meaningful contacts.”

The chart below shows the mental and emotional stress that is directly impacting you and your most valuable asset, your employees. These increases in anxiety, stress, depression, and despair have led to an increase in suicide rates.

The following from Benefit News shows suicide rates in the U.S. continue to rise every year and the largest number of suicides occur among those in the working age population. The isolation of remote work and the emotional strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a new mental health crisis in the workplace. Additionally, during the coronavirus pandemic 91% percent of employees say they have experienced moderate to extreme stress while working from home, according to a survey conducted by Ginger.

Kristin Tugman, vice president of Health and Productivity Analytics at Prudential says, “We’re at a pivotal moment to address mental health or that will become the next pandemic. Suicide is elusive, and nobody wants to talk about it. The only way we’re going to get at it is to raise awareness, minimize the stigma and increase access to care to get people the help they need.”

As an employer you may be wondering how to infuse hope back into your organization, and what a better tomorrow looks like or even how you can encourage attitudes through strategies that assist and improve employee mental health. Below are some proactive suggestions for employers looking to infuse hope throughout their employee population:

  1. Recognize that each person is an integrated whole, not compartmentalized into home, work, social, intellectual, physical, and spiritual.
    1. Ensure that employees know how to use their mental health benefits and / or the employee assistance program if available.
    2. If telehealth is provided and covered by the health plan, communicate to employees of its availability to include mental health.
    3. Encourage other venues of social interaction between employees for social zoom coffee calls, to FaceTime, to outdoor distancing get-togethers. Get creative!
    4. Reminder: effective communication is not a “one and done.” It is daily, weekly, monthly – a never ceasing stream of hope that will be consumed and remembered at the time of need.
  2. Create a culture of hope because hope is contagious.
    1. Consistent senior management leadership and communication.
      1. Keep employees informed about the future
      2. Highlight your successes
      3. Articulate the challenges
      4. Provide hope
      5. Lead the way out
    2. Encourage positive character traits – humility, gratitude, creativity, patience, sense of humor, flexibility, sensitivity, compassion
    3. Promote emotional well-being – show compassion, listen well, be empathetic, be available, be a friend, forgive others
    4. Promote physical well-being – get outside, walk, go to the gym, work in the yard, bike, hike, swim
    5. Promote spiritual well-being – attend church, synagogue, temple, mosque, pray, serve others, help at a food center, give of yourself generously
    6. Promote intellectual well-being – there are many online courses across the spectrum of interests, start something new, read, paint, sculpt, learn to play an instrument, sing, increase knowledge and awareness of others

The infusion of hope supports the person, their family, their community, their country, and their place of employment – hope triumphs over anxiety, stress, depression, and despair.

Contact us to learn how APH utilizes health data to support various health initiatives and health outcomes.

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