It’s no secret that after living with COVID-19 for nearly a year now, most of us are pretty burned out. Many of us are coming up on the one-year anniversary of working from home, and let’s face it, working where you live isn’t everything we thought it would be. Sure, saving money and time on the daily commute is a plus, but the ability and addiction to work harder and longer hours has blurred the lines between our work and personal lives. Add in the stress of trying to stay safe from COVID-19, home-schooling kids, and juggling the responsibilities of work and family and you have a recipe for a mental health pandemic.

In a recent survey, Paycor, a company that specializes in HR software, found that 86 percent of business leaders are concerned about mental health in the workplace. According to a recent Paycor feature “Historically, mental health and well-being has been a subject many of us swept under the rug, but now it’s more important than ever to shed light on what’s become a very real issue.”

Some of the survey’s findings are concerning:
• 1 in 5 American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year
• 67 percent of U.S. workers say they’re burned out
• 48 percent of Gen Z and 44 percent of Millennials say they feel stressed or anxious all or most of the time

Check out the full infographic here to see just how much of a concern mental health is and then download Paycor’s guide, How HR Can Promote Mental Health at Work, for actionable advice you can put into practice right away.

Optical Feels the Mental Stress

A recent Pop-Up poll from Women In Optometry posed this question to their readers: are you feeling like COVID-19’s got you down? The majority of respondents said that their mental health and stress level have been negatively impacted by months of this COVID-19 environment. Among the challenges they were asked to rate, 64 percent of respondents said that there mental health and stress level is somewhat worse now than pre-COVID.

Another 19 percent said it was much worse now. Practice and business revenue has been impacted, as well, with 48 percent of respondents rating it somewhat worse than pre-COVID, and 15 percent said much worse.
Poll respondents stated that being in the office brought some of their greatest risk: either by seeing patients (47 percent) and interactions with staff/co-workers (9 percent). Another 29 percent felt their greatest exposure was when they were out interacting in the community in public locations including restaurants and the grocery store.

The impact of COVID-19 hits close to home for many poll participants, with 72 percent saying that they know people in their community who have tested positive or become sick and 42 percent had a staff member test positive.

Respondents shared that a member of their family has tested positive (20 percent) and they suspect someone in their circle is/has been sick but have not had a test (15 percent). Just 4 percent stated that they personally were sick or tested positive.

Many ODs have already received the vaccination or plan to when it becomes available. Twenty-seven percent have already received at least one of the doses, 20 percent are scheduled in the next two weeks and 36 percent plan to but do not know when yet.

Click here to read the full story from Women In Optometry.

Read More About It

In March of 2020, VM’s associate editor Gwendolyn Plummer wrote a great feature for VMAIL Weekend titled Saving Your Sanity During a Crisis. In the story she outlined resources and coping techniques for dealing with the stress of living through a pandemic. One year later, this information is still very valuable. Click here to read the feature.

On NPR’s “Fresh Air," The Times’s Claire Cain Miller discussed the strain the pandemic has placed on mothers. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many American families without child care and in-person schooling. Those new household burdens have largely landed on the shoulders of women, says Journalist Claire Cain Miller. Miller has been working from home, reporting on how the pandemic has affected the lives of mothers, in a New York Times series called "The Primal Scream." It's a subject she's familiar with: Her children, ages 4 and 8, have been been attending school virtually since the pandemic began.

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, new fast-spreading variants have caused a surge in infections in many countries, and renewed lockdowns. The devastation of the pandemic—millions of deaths, economic strife and unprecedented curbs on social interaction—has already had a marked effect on people’s mental health, according to Researchers worldwide are investigating the causes and impacts of this stress, and some fear that the deterioration in mental health could linger long after the pandemic has subsided.

How to Reach Out for Counseling

As part of their employee benefits, most major companies offer EAPs, also known as Employee Assistance Programs, according to Deborah Cohen, LCSW, BCD, a social worker and psychotherapist who practices in Westchester County, New York. Typically, you can call the EAP directly or ask your HR department to provide the phone number for the EAP “but when you call, it’s a confidential line and even though employers are providing the service, they don’t have access to the content of those calls. So employees can feel comfortable knowing their information won’t be shared,” Cohen said.

For those working for smaller companies that don’t offer EAPs, Cohen suggested a good place to start looking for a therapist is to Google counseling services within their zip codes in order to get a listing of therapists in their area. It’s also important to check and make sure the therapist is appropriately licensed.

“Research shows that the best outcome for a therapist-patient relationship has to do with fit. I recommend you go for a few consultations and see how you feel. Follow your gut to see if you’re feeling like it’s a good fit. You should feel like this person is understanding me. This person gets me. Good communication is the key. Ultimately, clients need to feel that the sessions result in a process that can work for them,” Cohen said.