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Be proactive about mental health support as cost-of-living crisis takes its toll says Howden

To mark World Mental Health Day[i] on 10th October, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing is encouraging businesses to prioritise mental health support for employees following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis.

The World Health Organisation[ii] revealed that in the first year of the pandemic the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25%.

In England, projections by the NHS Confederation in February showed that 10 million people will need new or additional support for their mental health over the next three to five years[iii].

For some, money worries about rising prices and soaring energy bills are exacerbating mental health issues. Research this year by The Money and Mental Health Institute[iv] found that half (54%) of UK adults say they have felt anxious because of higher prices, while one in five (21%) have felt unable to cope and those already struggling with their mental health and finances are most affected.

Research from Deloitte found that the cost to UK employers of poor mental health increased to £56bn in 2020-21, compared to £45bn in 2019[v], and that poor mental health is a key driver in people quitting their jobs.

Leo Savage, Global Wellbeing Consultant at Howden says, “Employers are facing a double whammy when it comes to mental health with the effects of the pandemic still taking its toll, and the cost-of-living crisis adding further pressure.

“Providing mental health support to help employees get through the next few months and beyond will be vital in helping to support a robust, healthy and happy workforce. Businesses need to get on the front foot and be proactive.”

According to Savage some actions firms can take can be easily implemented and include talking about mental health more to normalise conversations and to help break the stigma that can surround mental health.

Savage says, “Introducing short sessions at the end of team meetings to discuss any worries can allow space for people to talk. Managers can also use this time to signpost people to help and support such as Employee Assistance Programmes, apps which monitor and promote better mental health, as well as free resources and mental health charities that offer confidential support and advice.

“Benefit policies often include value-added services such as virtual GPs and access to mental health practitioners, so it’s worth employers checking what resources are already available.

Introducing wellbeing initiatives such as mindfulness, financial education sessions and giving free advice via their intranet with links to resources are also quite simple to introduce.

“As World Mental Health Day approaches, we urge employers to re-connect with mental health and as well as the effective solutions highlighted, we encourage them to develop a cohesive health and wellbeing strategy that addresses the four pillars of wellbeing – mental, physical, financial and social.

“Every individual is different, and a one size fits all approach won’t work, so the first step is to find out what employees want and need and then tailor a strategy that meets their needs. Making this a priority and putting in measures to support employees during the difficult times ahead is something businesses can no longer afford not to do.”

For more information, please visit https://www.howdengroup.com/uk-en/cover/employee-benefits-and-wellbeing-consulting

[i] https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day/2022

[ii] https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-covid-19-pandemic-triggers-25-increase-in-prevalence-of-anxiety-and-depression-worldwide

[iii] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/feb/21/england-second-pandemic-mental-health-issues-nhs-covid

[iv] https://www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Cost-of-living-crisis-policy-note-3.pdf

[v] https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/poor-mental-health-costs-uk-employers-up-to-pound-56-billion-a-year.html