Workers’ Pandemic Struggles: from Mental Health Issues to Substance Abuse

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This pandemic has brought big changes to the previous work setup. Companies did not only need to make remote work setup work for the team. They also had to ensure that employees were in their best physical and mental health during the pandemic.

People have different ways of coping during this pandemic. With that, some workers tend to get stressed and anxious about the situation. Unfortunately, some adults have resorted to substance use. Others even considered suicide due to mental health issues.

From mental health issues to substance abuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of adults in the U.S struggled with their mental health in June 2020. At least 31% manifested anxiety and depression symptoms. Of this, 13% said they increased their substance use or started doing so due to the pandemic. At least 11%, meanwhile, had suicidal thoughts.

In 2020 alone, the National Center for Health Statistics recorded 93,331 deaths due to drug overdose. The majority were related to the overdose of opioids, mostly of illegal fentanyl. Some deaths were due to overdose of methamphetamine and cocaine.

According to experts, substance abuse and drug overdose can be attributed to the stress and anxiety due to the pandemic. This makes them prone to making “unhealthy” or right decisions.

Struggling workers resort to drug abuse

According to a 2020 survey conducted by The Standard, mental health issues among workers increased from 39% pre-pandemic to 46% in 2020. At least 55% of workers said they had been affected by a mental health issue, while 36% of workers say they are affected by substance addiction. More than half of the workers say they lost 10 hours and above productivity at work every week due to substance abuse.

The GenZ’s are mostly struggling, with at least 71% saying that their behavioral health was affected by job instability, housing stability, increasing debt, and lower salaries.

Employers have also been giving support to their workers given these struggles. This includes reviewing and updating their policies, conducting mental health awareness training, and requiring heroin rehab for employees.

Other companies are also being flexible in terms of work performance. Some employers have emphasized the need to create a mental-health-friendly work environment.

Here are some tips for employers and human resource managers:

· Implement a drug-free workplace policy in your team

It’s one thing to have a specific and comprehensive policy against using a substance, especially during working hours. It’s another thing to make them understand why they have to adhere to the policy. They have to understand how important it is for their wellness as well. They also have to understand their responsibility and commitment to the company. They have to realize why they should respect policies to create a safe and healthy working environment.

Create strategies that will adapt to the changes in this pandemic. Since you cannot monitor your employees 24/7, you may think of ways to assess your employees based on work performance and productivity.

· Educate your team

Create programs that will discuss mental health issues. Educate them on its effects and consequences and how it affects their performance at work. Educate them also on the current laws against substance abuse and its corresponding penalties. Make sure also that they know the penalties imposed by the company. Allow them to understand that not only is their job at stake. Their health is also on the line.

· Provide mental health support programs

Everybody is going through some hard times these days. Those who fall into substance abuse are most likely struggling with mental health issues. Having a monthly mental health discussion with a trusted counselor or speaker will help them understand what they’re going through. Have a counselor available anytime should they need to talk to. Reassure them that the lines within your team are always open.

Also, create a friendly and encouraging working environment. Implement a mental health leave of absence and allow them to take a break should they need to. Reassure your team that they have a human resource team that they can rely on. It is also important to keep mental health matters within your company. Mental health is a sensitive topic that should be kept private and respected.

While such programs and strategies will not solve substance abuse one hundred percent, these will help ease their worries. These will appease them, knowing that they are listened to and valued by their company. So that instead of resorting to drinking alcohol or overdosing with substances, they’d rather bring in their energies and efforts to be better at work.

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