Mental health issues on the rise as Omicron grows

Why HR leaders should use this time to educate staff about the importance of well-being

Mental health issues on the rise as Omicron grows

More than two-thirds of employees in Asia said they’ve experienced mental health issues over the past six months, according to the latest Asia Care Survey of Manulife. The survey found that respondents suffered from sleeping difficulties, inability to concentrate, excessive worrying, and mood swings. Depression also placed fourth on the biggest health concerns across all markets, with anxiety and burnout also regarded as a concern amid the pandemic.

Read more: How to manage employee loneliness

The long COVID effect

According to Manulife's survey, some of the symptoms experienced by its respondents overlap with the long-term effects of the coronavirus. It said that familiarity with Long COVID is "surprisingly low" at 35% in Asia, but interest is high with 94% wanting to know more about the problem and find insurance solutions to help. Educating and communicating with staff about the nature of long COVID are some of the things HR could do to help prepare for the problem, according to International SOS.

Aligning policies and monitoring the workplace could also help prepare offices and staff from the problems brought about by long COVID, which could include brain fog and low morale.

Other key findings

With the pandemic extending far longer with little signs of abating, more than half of people living in Asia "have accepted that COVID-19 is here to stay," according to Manulife's report. A total of 53% of its respondents said they have changed their health, digital, and financial habits to match the new normal, despite concerns on their income and wellbeing.

"Unsurprisingly, people across Asia are fatigued by more than two years of living through a pandemic, with many unprepared for how long COVID-19 has lasted," said Anil Wadhwani, president and chief executive officer of Manulife Asia. "Our survey findings reveal that there have been profound adjustments in people’s behaviour, lifestyles, and broader physical, mental, and financial habits since last year."

How can HR help?

Mental health issues have been on the rise as COVID-19, keeping workplaces shuttered, employees isolated, and the future remaining uncertain. Employers should be taking this time to raise awareness and educate staff about the importance of mental wellbeing – or risk seeing mass burnout. That’s according to Brian Henderson, former C-suite leader and founder of Whole Business Wellness Ltd. Speaking to HRD, he suggested that HR create a "safe space" for employees where they can share their experiences. There are also tools that can help them evaluate their resilience to see where employers could help.

Henderson talked about this in detail during a panel event by AmCham Hong Kong, which HRD covered here.

If you or someone you know needs support, contact the following helplines:

    National CARE hotline: 1800 202 6868

    Samaritans of Singapore: 1800 221 4444

    Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222

    TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800 377 2252

    Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800 353 5800

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