Mental health and the pandemic

More than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) have said their mental health got worse during lockdown, according to a survey run by mental health charity Mind. Their research demonstrates that many people who were already suffering with mental health problems saw their mental health worsen during the pandemic due to enforced restrictions. However, those without previous experience of mental health problems have also seen their mental health decline.

Mental health has worsened substantially (by 8.1% on average) as a result of the pandemic according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. This makes the pandemic a mental health emergency, Even when taking pre-pandemic trajectories into account.

Influences driving poor mental health

During the pandemic these are the influences on mental health which appear to have affected people the most:

Social Isolation

At various points during the pandemic isolation has been compulsory. Add to this many people needing to work from home, social isolation has had a big impact on mental health. Levels of loneliness some have felt during this time have been affected by social isolation. In the Mind survey 79% of people stated not being able to see people as the main driver of their poor mental health.

We at PinPoint Media introduced ‘Cuppa Tea Catch Ups’ for all of the team as social isolation was something that we were really aware of during home working. These were regular timetabled sessions for the team to chat about whatever was on their minds in a 1 on 1 catch up.

We found these sessions helped the team to feel less alone, and helped new starters to bond with other team members in spite of not being able to meet face to face. These regular sessions, alongside our group socials via Zoom, really gave the team a chance to get together and have fun despite the global pandemic.

Anxiety

Understandably, between 20 March and 30 March 2020 almost half (49.6%) of the population of Great Britain reported “high” (rating 6 to 10) anxiety according to the Office for National Statistics. The reasons for anxiety are varied.

According to Mind, 74% stated anxiety about family and friends getting coronavirus as a main driver of their poorer mental health during lockdown. The Mental Health Foundation found that in the first month of lockdown 1 in 3 (33%) employed people worried about losing their job, and almost half of those without a job (45%) worried about having enough food to meet their household basic needs.

These financial and employment fears also had a knock-on effect on housing insecurity. According to the Office for National Statistics, the self-employed and people who rent are more likely to have had their household finances and their jobs negatively impacted.

Lack of coping mechanisms

Further to presenting new or enhanced stressors, the pandemic also has affected a variety of the mechanisms people typically use to cope with stress. Mind found that not being able to see people (79%) and not being able to go outside (74%) were two of the main drivers of poorer mental health during lockdown.

We know that being able to get together and have fun is a coping mechanism for many of our team members. It’s why at the beginning of the pandemic gave the team a regular opportunity to catch up with scheduled Zoom socials. From quizzes to games, team members took it in turns to organise the social, giving them an opportunity to both organise and take part.

Reduced access to mental health services

Not having access to mental health services can be critical to those already suffering from poor mental health. Prior to the pandemic many services were already stretched with providers reporting an inability to meet the demand, so the additional pressure of the global situation resulted in further reduced access.

The ‘new’ normal

Now we are entering a ‘new’ normal as restrictions are finally lifting. For many this means returning to the office and this can bring increased anxiety. From coping with new rules and regulations to concerns about catching the virus, many people are worried about returning to pre-lockdown working.

During lockdown, many people have had an extended period of isolation, which leads to additional anxiety around relearning how to socialise in a working space. With all these aspects in mind, it’s clear why we need to tread carefully and consciously into this new way of working.

What we are doing at PinPoint Media

We are putting in place as many initiatives as possible to ensure our employees stay safe and supported during this uncertain time, as we take the impact that the pandemic has had on our team’s mental health very seriously.

Mental Health First Aider

Jessica Barder, our Senior Animation Producer, has been trained as our first Mental Health First Aider in order to support our team with any immediate mental health concerns in the first instance.

“As a Mental Health First Aider at PinPoint Media, I am able to identify and support colleagues that are showing signs of mental ill health. I do this by approaching the person whilst respecting their privacy and confidentiality. I listen and communicate non judgmentally, giving them information and encouraging that individual to seek either professional help or support through loved ones. I am also able to signpost that person to local community organisations and helplines. At PinPoint Media my training has already been helpful to others and the response to it has been lovely to see. We have to normalise conversations around mental ill health because it is the stigma that acts as one of the biggest barriers in someone getting the support that they need.”

~ Jessica Barder, Mental Health First Aider at PinPoint Media

Employee assistance programme

Our Employee Assistance Programme has been in place for many years, and this gives our team fully anonymous mental health support and signposting. It works in conjunction with the support that team members might receive from our management team and our Mental Health First Aider, but with the extra anonymity aspect.

Physical team safety

We’ve made sure that we are incredibly transparent about the rules we’ve put in place to protect our team and clients throughout the pandemic. From regular testing to mask wearing, we’ve made sure that everyone is aware of what we are doing and why.

Now that we are returning to the office, we’ve increased some of the measures that we have in place. This is to make certain we are doing all we can to help the team feel safe and secure when they are in the office. We are continuing to test regularly, our seating remains socially distanced, and we have introduced temperature checking. All these measures are in place to help protect our employees.

Flexibility for office working

Like many businesses, we learnt to work collaboratively even with many of the team working from home during the pandemic. We’ve therefore introduced flexible working, giving our team the opportunity to work up to two days from home even when we are permanently back in the office.

This flexibility means our employees can work in a way that suits them – making the most of the cooperative atmosphere of our office or taking advantage of time at home as and when they might need it.

Conclusion

It’s obvious that the pandemic initially had a massive impact on mental health, but, as the world opens up, we need to be aware that it is still making waves, and our team’s mental health needs to be supported more than ever. The more assistance we can put in place now the better, to help create and sustain a healthy workforce.

With World Mental Health Day coming up on the 10th October, we want to do all we can to support our team and yours. Already we are working with a number of organisations to create internal mental health related video content. This is to share their team’s mental health stories and communicate the steps they are taking to support mental health. If this is something you are considering, get in touch with our expert team.

We’ve shared what we are doing to support our team’s mental health in this ‘new’ normal, but we’d love to know what steps you are taking too! Come and join us on LinkedIn to chat about mental health during this uncertain time.