Why are so many Canadians living with anxiety?

Mental exhaustion will likely lead to other stress-related disorders beyond anxiety

Why are so many Canadians living with anxiety?

Constant stress amid these uncertain times has led to a sharp increase in the number of Canadians grappling with anxiety – so much so that the condition has now overtaken depression as the top mental health concern among workers.

Cases of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) have risen from 34% to 46% among users of the guided digital therapy platform Beacon since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early March. Anxiety has since become the most rampant mental health condition among the demographic.

The number of people experiencing severe symptoms of GAD during the period also increased from 32% to 42% or more than two in five Canadians.

Read more: Are employees on the brink of burnout?

“This type of mental exhaustion will likely lead to the rise of other stress-related disorders beyond anxiety,” said Dr. Peter Farvolden, chief science officer of MindBeacon, which conducted the study.

“These may include depression, [post-traumatic stress disorder], drug and alcohol abuse, among others,” he said.

For Dr. Farvolden, the results are hardly surprising given the state of uncertainty and massive disruption people have been witnessing during the global health and financial crisis. The most common stressors he observed range from illness, death, job losses and other social and economic disruptions.

“We may be seeing anxiety rearing its head right now; however, in the months ahead, there will be a real risk of many additional mental health concerns that are directly related to that,” he said.

The MindBeacon study is only the latest in a diverse collection of literature on employee mental health now emerging in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Read more: How to safeguard mental health in a prolonged crisis

A recent Ipsos survey found that almost 60% of Canadians are struggling with some form of mental health condition or another because of the stress and strain of the pandemic.

More Canadians are thus turning to online and mobile mental health therapies to ease their condition.

“The combination of online modules and ongoing guidance and support from a therapist is what drives the clinical efficacy of the program,” said Nigel Branker, president of health and productivity solutions at HR services firm Morneau Shepell, which recently expanded its clinical network.

The crisis isn’t only a business issue – it’s also a human resources challenge.

“Employees experiencing stress and anxiety should be met with compassion, solidarity, kindness and courtesy. Leaders should assure employees that they are not alone and check in on how they are doing,” advised Marc LeCuyer, general manager at ServiceNow, who recently spoke to HRD.

“If managers see someone struggling, they should gently offer help, and check in with them again during their next one-on-one meeting,” he said. “They should also share resources that are available to support them.”

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