Culture5 min read

This Got Us Thinking: what if we’re on the edge of a mental health crisis?

The Covid-19 crisis has hit us all hard, and the effects on businesses and individuals have been plain to see. Here at Hive Learning, we’ve been busy helping clients support people’s mental wellbeing during this difficult time.

This got us thinking.

We noticed many companies responding quickly to the growing need for mental health support. They made reasonable adjustments, showed compassion and directed people to resources that were immediately helpful. 

But as we battle through the pandemic, is there a risk that we’ll stop talking about mental wellbeing if budgets are tightened or the crisis starts to subside? 

Mental health depression by @qieerwang.

Covid-19 has impacted our hospitals, our economy, the way we socialize and how we work. But what if there’s another crisis bubbling underneath? Let’s take a look at the numbers…

  • A report in the US stated that an extra 150,000 could die from mental health-related outcomes due to Covid-19. 
  • The NHS has already seen a rise in the number of people seeking help with their mental health, with some providers predicting a 20% increase in all their mental health services. 
  • The Centre for Mental Health has predicted that an extra 500,000 people will need mental health support over the next two years
  • Mental health charity Mind has urged the UK government to “urgently plan for recovery from coronavirus mental health crisis”.

We can’t afford to let mental health drop as a priority. Even as we see a return to normality, there will be plenty to tax our mental wellbeing with potential job losses and a looming recession. It’s vital to keep talking about mental wellness and continue to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health.

Mental health help by @sauts.

We’ve seen several stories that help keep mental health an important part of our daily conversation, and we wanted to share some of their insights with you.

📱 A boom in digital mental health solutions

As lockdown measures started to bite, many people turned to digital apps and solutions — including ones to help manage their mental health. In the UK, text messaging support service Shout saw an extra 6,000 people contact their service in the two months following lockdown restrictions. The crisis helpline volunteers spoke to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge about the changes they’d seen in people contacting them. More and more of those getting in touch were frontline healthcare workers who were worried about PPE and the helpline saw conversations rise from 750 a day to more than 900.

🔗 Link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/W-kjoVbV6jM

Shout certainly isn’t alone in seeing an uptick in demand. Telehealth platform Kara Connect registered a 15-fold increase in professional sign-ups in March this year. Mindstrong raised $100 million in May this year. In fact, venture capital investment in mental health technology has been growing strongly, reaching £580 million ($750 million) this year. The pandemic has made mental health startups more important than ever, with companies in the space scaling rapidly to meet demand. 

Will this change the way employers offer mental health support as people grow accustomed to digital solutions?

💡 Want to learn more? Check out this Forbes article which talks about global mental health investment. 

🗣️ Break the stigma, keep talking

Despite mental health coming under the spotlight, there remains a stigma when it comes to talking about it. People are especially nervous when it comes to talking about mental health at work. 68% of employees worry that reaching out to HR or management about their mental health issues could affect their job security.

During this pandemic, mental health professionals have told us that it’s normal to feel anxious. The loneliness and isolation brought on by lockdowns have forced us all to take a look at our mental health and be more open when we’re not OK. Could Covid-19 actually help us to break down the stigma surrounding mental health?

Plenty of high-profile people are speaking out more about their mental wellbeing. The more people we see acknowledging the importance of their mental wellbeing, the more comfortable others will feel about doing the same.

📺 In this short video, a group of celebrities opens up about taking care of their own mental and emotional health.

🔗 Link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/WT_xFNBbFRY

By the way, we get that many of these celebs won’t have the same concerns (like job security or paying the bills) as us civilians! But being this open about mental health is a great example that we can all follow.

We hope this prompts leaders to use the influence they have in their workplace to open up and model behavior that de-stigmatizes mental health. 

Interested in reading more about mental health stigma? Check out Time to Change, a social movement that aims to change the way we think and act about mental health problems.

👩 Covid-19 creates a mental health crisis for women

A study led by Care International has found that women are nearly three times more likely to say that their mental health has got worse as a result of the pandemic. 

Mental health girl by @Chabaski_.

One of the biggest factors driving mental health issues is a loss of income. 55% of women said that this was one of the biggest effects of the pandemic, compared to 34% of men.

Let’s be clear, mental health can affect any person, of any age and any gender. But gender inequalities have meant that women are affected differently during this crisis. 60% of women work in the informal economy which leaves them at greater risk of falling into poverty.

There’s also the worry that the pandemic could reverse progress we’ve previously seen for gender equality. 

“Six months ago, Care sounded the alarm that the global health crisis would only widen the gender gap and reverse decades of progress across women’s health, nutrition and economic stability. And after six months of listening to women and capturing their stories, our alarm bell is ringing louder than ever.” Emily Janoch, lead author of the Care International study

✅ Challenge negative comments and assumptions about mental health

The Mental Health at Work 2019 Report recommends that businesses develop awareness of non-inclusive behaviours to remove the stigma around poor mental health. This can be as simple as calling out phrases like “she’s crazy” or stamping out comments that trivialize distress or a team member taking time out for their mental health.

Top things to say to challenge stigmatizing comments

  • Compare the mental health issue to a physical health issue to point out dissonance
  • Say, “I feel…”. E.g. “I feel hurt that you made that association.”
  • State facts that contradict what they are saying and paint a clearer view of an individual issue or mental health in general.
  • Say, “You’re talking about someone I care about/me right now.”
  • Say, “You say he is not normal. What is normal anyway?”\

Our efforts need to be sustainable so we can keep mental health on the radar to boost belonging and prevent employee burnout. Find out more in our blog post, Top 4 reasons not to let mental health drop off the radar.


This Got Us Thinking is a weekly blog that brings you easy-going nudges to think differently, do differently and experiment with how to be more inclusive. Each week, we dip into the unanswerable, nuanced and gray areas of inclusion and offer, not answers, but inklings. You can request a topic to be covered by the This Got Us Thinking series by reaching out to us here.

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