Over half of Canadian employees surveyed say they are experiencing one or more work-related mental health risk factors, according to Manulife’s 2020 Wellness Report. This news comes at a time when many employers are growing increasingly concerned about the mental health of their employees as COVID-19 lockdowns continue.
The Wellness Report measures the physical, psychological and financial wellbeing of employees. It also provides insights about employee engagement and more.
The 2020 Wellness Report findings are based on assessments at 70 organizations last year, including 7,251 employee participants. Organizations register with Manulife for the free total wellness check.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the 2020 report found that many are struggling socioemotionally, with 48% of employees surveyed saying they are experiencing loneliness, including:
- Feeling lack of companionship
- Feeling left out
- Feeling isolated from others
Perhaps even more alarming for employers, the report shows that 61% are not comfortable discussing their mental health with their manager.
Employees with benefit plans that include mental health resources can ease these risk factors. Overall, Manulife has seen more group benefits plan members seeking mental health therapy since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As an employer and as a benefits provider, we’re very worried about the mental health of Canadians as COVID-19 continues,” says Donna Carbell, Head of Group Benefits and IGP, Manulife Canada.
“We’re trying to make it easy for people to get help,” she added. “In addition to people who are feeling lonely and isolated, we know parents with younger kids at home during lockdowns are struggling to manage. We believe healthcare workers – who have been under incredible pressure for over a year now – are at a breaking point.”
“It’s not too late for employers to take steps now to support mental health during the pandemic and to build employee resilience for the future,” says Dr. Georgia Pomaki, leader of mental health specialists at Manulife.
“Employers who start proactively supporting both employees and managers, while honestly addressing perceptions around mental health as an organization, can help create positive, lasting change,” she says.
Dr. Pomaki provided these high-level considerations for employers:
- Employees with robust coverage for therapy, access to mental health tools and resources, and incentives to stay physically healthy – can be better able to handle workplace and personal stress.
- Managers with regular mental health training can be more likely to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and know how to best intervene.
- Organizations that support disability management, develop work-life balance policies, design anti-stigma campaigns, and profile leaders that exemplify healthy attitudes toward mental health, can help reduce the risk of presenteeism and absenteeism.
“A lot of people are seeking therapy for the first time – and they’re doing it online,” says Adam Kelly, Chief Commercial Officer for MindBeacon Health, about the MindBeacon Therapist Guided Program. “We’ve seen a 21-time increase in people beginning our program since the pandemic started. This means, over 200 Canadians are starting therapy with us every single day – and 48% of them have never sought mental health support before.”
Out of those who’ve used the MindBeacon program, 76% started with moderate to severe symptoms. This means that people are often trying the service as they’re reaching a breaking point. The good news is – 66% have only subclinical or mild symptoms by the time they reach the end of the program.
Canadians’ use of virtual care has skyrocketed since the start of COVID-19. A study by Canada Health Infoway and Environics Research shows that 7 in 10 Canadians seeking medical assistance during the pandemic have used virtual care – and 91% of those have been satisfied with the experience.
“The number of mental health therapy sessions we’ve provided has increased 7 times during the pandemic,” says Dan Pawliw, Co-Founder of Akira, now TELUS Health Virtual Care, which powers Manulife’s Healthcare Online program. “I think the growth of virtual care is just starting. In most cases, once people try our service for the first time, they come back multiple times. Our satisfaction rating stayed at 4.9 out of 5 throughout the height of the pandemic’s first and second waves.”