Addressing Staff Stressors and Mental Health

Regulation | February 04, 2021 | by Jodi Eyigor

CDC released an Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on racial and ethnic disparities in mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDC released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) today Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Prevalence of Stress and Worry, Mental Health Conditions, and Substance Use Among Adults During the Pandemic. This study analyzed data from a weekly, opt-in, internet survey and found 28.6% of respondents reported experiencing depression, 8.4% reported suicidal ideation, and 18.2% reported new or increased substance use. We know that even before the pandemic, those identifying in racial and ethnic minority groups experienced disparities in mental health and substance use related to access to care, psychosocial stress, and social determinants of health. This study found that those who self-identified as Hispanic reported significantly higher rates across all 3 measures.

Of all respondents, sources of psychosocial stress included family health; feelings of isolation and loneliness; worry about getting ill or infecting others; worry about death of a loved one or persons dying; workplace COVID-19 exposure; and stigma or discrimination from being blamed for spreading COVID-19. Social determinants of health stressors included possible job loss; ability to obtain needed healthcare; not having enough food; and housing instability.

What You Can Do

Noting that the staff in our communities are not immune to these issues, it will be important to facilitate resources. Gather resources to address common issues and make them available in a way that is easy to access, helps combat stigma around needing assistance, while also allowing privacy. Perhaps you have a wall of flyers and pamphlets in the staff break room, or post resources on a bulletin board. Maybe you include a list of resources in the paychecks so everyone gets the information and no one has to ask for it or be seen asking for it.

Recognizing that the concern of one household member likely impacts the entire household, provide resources to address a number of concerns that staff and their families may be facing. Include information on substance use support groups, such as a 12-step program, and companion programs designed for those who are supporting a loved one struggling with addiction. Identify support groups or counseling services focused on depression, anxiety, and grief and loss. Post numbers for suicide hotlines and domestic violence hotlines. Identify domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters in the area. Provide resources that address food scarcity like local food pantries and meal programs, or considering providing a meal program in your community such as take-home dinners and grab-bags that staff can share with their household. Offer housing resources, including information on programs that offer rent, mortgage, and utility assistance.

Don’t forget about healthcare. While your staff may be insured through your organization, their family or household members may not have insurance. Provide information on resources that can assist in accessing healthcare, as well as information on COVID-19 testing sites and vaccination sites.

Local social services agencies and state or local government, including Department of Health websites, can all be great places to start as you work to identify resources.