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Businesses advised to prepare for a rise in mental health problems

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) is advising employers to prepare for a likely surge in mental health problems during the current lockdown.

In a recent poll carried out by the Association, 41 per cent of respondents said their mental health was worse than normal as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions – including five per cent who said it was much worse.

With lockdown restrictions only in their early stages, BESA is concerned long periods of enforced physical isolation could lead to a serious mental health epidemic.

Speaking at a recent BESA Covid-19 update webinar, Emily Pearson, Managing Director of the mental health in the workplace organisation Our Minds Work said: “We need to treat mental health with the same seriousness as physical health.” Adding it was important for people working from home, or in more isolation than usual, to remain in regular contact with work colleagues and to closely monitor changes to their mental well-being.

BESA urged employers to maintain regular contact with both working and furloughed staff amidst concern that the latter would simply be left to their own devices for the duration of the crisis. Pearson said companies could access resources via the website (www.ourmindswork.com) to help them put strategies in place.

However, she added that there would be times when only the physical intervention of a colleague, friend or family member would be needed to deal with the most serious problems.

“We must not forget that this condition can kill,” she told webinar attendees. “Action needs to be taken during the lockdown if someone is having significant problems – just as you would if they had broken their leg.

“We are all experiencing greater anxiety and we know that there was a steep increase in people reporting mental health worries on the day the Prime Minister announced the lockdown,” said Pearson.

A recent survey by BESA and the ECA found that nine out of 10 small business owners were suffering from stress and other serious mental health conditions.

BESA Chief Executive, David Frise, said: “Mental health was already a serious problem in our sector before the current Covid-19 crisis. The industry has made major progress on the physical safety of its workforce, but continues to struggle with mental health issues, which are just as important.

“Employers must be mindful of the impact uncertainty and isolation can have on their staff who will also be worrying about their job security. We are also urging banks to be mindful of the particular pressure on small business owners applying for financial support through the government’s emergency schemes.”

For all the latest guidance, support and previous webinars on COVID-19 visit thebesa.com/covid19.

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