Businesses have an important role to play in helping Aussies face the mental health impact of COVID-19, AccessEAP has said, noting that many will face heightened anxiety, social isolation and stress as a result of the unprecedented crisis.
Preliminary modelling by the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre shows that, following COVID-19, cases may rise to 750 additional suicides a year in the next five years.
But the employee assistance programs provider believes that men are most at risk, urging workplaces to act against unrealistic images of masculinity in pop culture.
Marcela Slepica, clinical services director at AccessEAP, explained that the economic impact of COVID-19 has weighed heavily on men, with 62.1 per cent expressing anxiety during the pandemic.
She warned that stereotypes are detrimental, urging workplaces to step up.
“Workplaces should help debunk these myths by talking about mental health and acknowledging that it is normal to have feelings of sadness or anxiety especially during these times of uncertainty,” she said.
“[We need to] rais[e] awareness about mental health and suicide prevention through education and listening to people’s personal stories.”
She warned that some men who suffer with mental health problems feel societal stigma is often what prevents them from opening up.
“Organisations need to have procedures in place to manage mental health in the workplace and aim towards eliminating the fear of disclosure,” Ms Slepica said.
“Leaders and supervisors often feel ill-equipped to have conversations with team members about potential mental health concerns, so it’s important to provide training.”
One simple tactic for businesses, Ms Slepica advised, is to encourage people to establish circles of support.
She said: “A circle of support doesn’t have to be large but could include family, friends or colleagues who provide friendship and support to a person who needs it.
“This approach can benefit all involved by sharing reciprocated strength; it also lessens the taboo of discussing more difficult topics like mental health.”
Ms Slepica added that Men’s Health Week on 15–21 June is a timely opportunity to put a focus on men and encourage them to talk and ask for help as part of a wider effort to help all Australians.