Global study reveals workers have high-level clinical depression during COVID-19 pandemic
The study showed that there is an urgent need for increased focus to understand and strategies to mitigate mental ill-health and promote better mental health to the workforce.

Global study reveals workers have high-level clinical depression during COVID-19 pandemic

Jan Milo Severo (Philstar.com) - May 1, 2021 - 12:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — A new study by the International SOS Foundation and Affinity Health at Work showed rotational workers in the time of COVID-19 pandemic have high-level of suicidal thoughts, clinical depression and impacts on physical health such as diet.

Dubbed as the “Mental Health and the Remote Rotational Workforce,” Dr. Rodrigo Rodriguez-Fernandez, medical director of Wellness and Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) of International SOS said that the study showed that there is an urgent need for an increased focus to understand strategies and to mitigate mental ill-health and promote better mental health to the workforce. 

“This is highlighted in our survey, which uncovers significantly high levels of critical mental-ill health issues, including suicidal thoughts and depression. The COVID-19 environment has also added increased stress on this already pressured working arrangement,” Fernandez said.  

The study revealed that 40% of all respondents experienced suicidal thoughts on rotation sometimes or all the time. This meant that one in five felt suicidal all or most of the time while 29% of participants met the benchmark for clinical depression. 

Another 52% reported a decline in mood and flagging mental health while 62% of respondents at work had worse mental health than would be the norm in a typical population or setting. Also, 31% of workers off rotation reported experiencing lower mental health than the general population. 

The study also exposed 23% of remote rotational workers who experienced emotional exhaustion weekly. 46% experienced higher stress levels while on rotation, and more than half or 57% were not engaged in their work. Despite their condition, 23% reported that they did not receive psychological support from their employers.

“We would expect burnout to be between 2-13% in the general population, so the almost quarter that we see from the survey is particularly high. Burnout can have a serious impact both personally and professionally, on the ability of an individual to carry out their role,” said Dr. Rachel Lewis, registered occupational psychologist, and director of Affinity Health at Work.  

“Remote rotational work may come with the perks of higher pay, but with its propensity to be isolating at the best of times. On and offshore, working pressures and varying shift patterns also add their weight. And this is not to mention the impact of the current pandemic, which has seen many remote workers unexpectedly away from family and friend networks for longer than anticipated,” she added.  

Department of Health has reported increased calls on mental health and suicide through the National Center of Mental Health (NCMH) hotline, with over 3,000 individuals supported during the first quarter of 2021. 

“Mental health has been an area of concern for organizations as we continue to navigate through this crisis. We have been supporting our clients with rotational workers by incorporating mental health support into their health and wellness programs,” said Dr. Carrianne Ewe, medical director at International SOS Philippines.

“This has become essential to support employees who are experiencing mental stress and pandemic fatigue. It is important to tell them that they are not alone in their journey and support is within reach through the Employee Assistance Programmes which can help them with sessions on mindfulness and tips on improving one’s mental wellbeing. This approach helps organizations build the resilience of their employees, ensuring that they are healthy and productive during these challenging times,” she said. 

The DOH urges people seeking professional support to get in touch with the National Center for Mental Health hotlines at 0917-899-USAP (8727) or 899-USAP (8727); or its Mind Matters hotline at 09189424864

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