How to manage a mental health crisis during the pandemic

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Health Assured team

16 July 2020

This year has proved to be challenging for many. The huge upheaval caused by COVID-19 has meant our world as we know it has been shifted and changed into ways we could not begin to fathom. Individuals who had pre-existing mental health conditions, have seen a sharp decline in their wellbeing51% of adults without experience of mental health problems have also seen their mental health worsen. Does this mean we are on the brink of a crisis?  

As a global community, we have faced an indescribable trauma. It is now crucial that we take care of our mental health and wellbeing in its aftermath.  

As an employer, you want what is best for your staff. After all, a happy workforce is an effective and efficient workforce. We spend so much time with our workplace colleagues, they start to become friends, and sometimes family.  

When crisis strikes, it can be shocking and difficult to manage, and often leaves us thinking, “Have I done enough?” Preparation and planning are key in managing highly stressful events. Putting plans in place ensures you are keeping your staff well and safe, as well as following your legal obligations as an employer. 

Reacting to a traumatic event 

When reacting to a traumatic event, most people will experience an unpleasant, difficult, and potentially overwhelming reaction.These reactions are normal, and usually diminish within a few weeks/months after the incident. This is called a “post-traumatic stress reaction” or an “acute stress reaction”. This is not the same as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

During the pandemic, people may have experienced an acute stress reaction at the very beginning of lockdown, during the lockdown periods, or after the restrictions were lifted 

Before a crisis 

Start by endorsing a supportive culture for your workforce’s mental health and wellbeing within the workplace. By encouraging a supportive culture, you will be contributing to your colleagues’ wellbeing. Offer reasonable adjustments such as flexible working hours, allow more breaks, or review workload. For more information regarding reasonable adjustments or how to implement them, please look to ACASFit for Work, and Access to Work. 

Familiarise yourself with local NHS services, including primary care mental health teamswalk-in centres, and A&E departments. In addition, ensure you have emergency contacts for all employees.   

Provide mental health training for employees and colleagues—this means that they will be able to identify signs and symptoms of a mental health problem and offer appropriate support.  

Obtain information about any employee’s next of kin or emergency contact. If contact with the employee becomes difficult, and there is concern for their wellbeing, consider contacting their next of kin to locate the employee and to ensure they are safe and well.  

Seek advice and support for yourself  

As an employer, it’s very easy to get swept away with support services for your workforce. However, you are also entitled to access this support. Use the EAP service when needed, or research more practical ways to nurture your wellbeing. 

Create a crisis support plan for the business  

 Having a crisis support policy plan can help to action important, and appropriate, support quicker. In the instances where you are not available, other colleagues may be able to action this plan, so employees are safe in the knowledge that they will have continued support. Here are a few ideas to include in your crisis support policy: 

  • Do not put yourself at risk 
  • Assess risk of the employee: does your employee need immediate support from emergency services? Or would services provided by a walk-in centre be more appropriate? 
  • Contact either emergency services or employee’s emergency contact to take them to A&E or the appropriate health service  
  • Stay with employee until appropriate support arrives  
  • Debrief with other employees or colleagues involved in the crisis situation or anyone who may have been affected  

After a crisis 

Crisis situations can be difficult for anyone. However, after care is crucial at these times. Some of your staff may be feeling vulnerable or emotional after a stressful crisis incident. Where possible, allow time and space for staff to process their emotions and feelings around the incident, and offer flexibility and support. Check in regularly with your employees to monitor their wellbeing and to display a supportive culture. 

Here at Health Assured, we offer a Trauma Management Debrief Programme. The Trauma Management Debrief is delivered by a specially trained trauma-response team and can be conducted within 24 to 72 hours after a critical incident. 

For any other concerns regarding employee wellbeing, please see here for a list of Coronavirus FAQs on our website.  

Contact the Health Assured team today for more information on the services and support we can provide in your workplace. Call us now on 0844 891 0354. 

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