Opinion: Employers bearing brunt of mental health crisis

KFF found that many employers have ramped up mental health and other benefits to provide support for their workers during uncertain times. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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KFF found that many employers have ramped up mental health and other benefits to provide support for their workers during uncertain times. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

If businesses leverage their resources for their employees who are struggling, we can be a part of the solution.

In the height of the pandemic, we witnessed heroic effort and excruciating fatigue across the medical industry from doctors and nurses who provided bedside care as well as those who support them. We hoped that once the pandemic receded, we would collectively breathe a sigh of relief and heal.

Unfortunately, we are now beginning to realize the impact that the experience of the past two years is having on everyone. As an employer, we have witnessed firsthand the unprecedented strain that is causing many to leave their profession. As a provider of mental health services, we’ve witnessed a dramatic increase in demand with too few practitioners available to meet the need. The result of these two occurring simultaneously has created a mental health crisis unlike anything our country has ever experienced.

In the summer of 2020, during some of the darkest days of quarantines and lockdowns, the statewide business alliance goBeyondProfit started asking people about their mental health. In that initial survey, respondents shared that they were concerned but still described their mental health as generally positive. That outlook is now in decline.

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Shane Jackson

Credit: contributed

Shane Jackson

Credit: contributed

Combined ShapeCaption
Shane Jackson

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

In a survey released recently, goBeyondProfit reports that 30 percent of working Georgians surveyed say they will likely leave their jobs in the next six months, with 38 percent saying compensation is influencing their decision. What stands out is the second reason. Some 35 precent – nearly the same number who chose compensation – say their mental health is playing a role in why they will look for a new job.

That people are struggling with mental health challenges right now is no surprise. That they would cite that as a primary reason for looking for a new job should be a wake-up call to all businesses.

Earlier this year, Georgia legislators exhibited a laudable display of bipartisanship, passing legislation intended to increase access to mental health professionals in our state. It is good that our government is doing its part to address this crisis, but any results of the state’s efforts will take years. For Georgia businesses and workers, the crisis is now.

This latest goBeyondProfit survey also asks Georgians which institutions they trust to do what is right. Only 36 percent say they trust state government. Conversely, 65 percent say they trust their employers to do what is right. And an incredible 75 percent of Georgians trust their own employers to go beyond what is right and actually help solve the societal problems we collectively face.

If you run a business in Georgia, here is what you need to hear: your employees are burned out and hurting. They trust you to help them, but if you don’t, they will leave. It is as simple as that.

So, what are business leaders to do?

Employees are certainly looking to their employers to help connect them with mental health professionals and other resources that can help them. More importantly, when asked what their employers can do to truly show that they care, the number one answer is to provide flexibility.

This should not be oversimplified to mean that people just want to work from home. What employees are looking for is their employers to engage with them to determine when, where and how they can work in a way that can help them manage the incredible number of stresses currently in their lives.

Every business is grappling with turnover during this time of “Great Resignation.” There is a shortage of workers, wage inflation is real, and businesses are having to make difficult decisions to balance the increasing cost of labor with their ability to deliver quality to their customers. However, one thing every business leader can do is actively strive to understand what is happening in the lives of the people they work with. If businesses leverage their resources for their employees who are struggling, we can be a part of the solution.

Georgia needs us.

Shane Jackson is president of Alpharetta-based Jackson Healthcare and co-founder of goBeyondProfit, a statewide alliance of more than 1,800 business leaders committed to corporate generosity and improving people’s lives.