Has anything brought workers mental health collectively and concurrently to the fore as much as the current pandemic. Normally, anxiety is a very personal and individual happening. At the moment its powerful, overwhelming force is moving through the population, like huge waves, outwards, in concentric circles.
Most of us, especially those of us who are more advanced in years, are nervous about catching the Coronavirus. We face uncertainty and possible hospitalisation should we do so. Its enough to stop us in our tracks and to hold us to the measures imposed by the government.
I have assisted lots of clients with risk assessments this week looking at returning to work whilst the pandemic is still amongst us. I get to the Risk Category and I know that statistically the chances of catching the virus are low. The numbers are clear. But is that what is doing the real damage? In a way it isn’t. Obviously, there are a high number of deaths and people rendered seriously ill from this virus. It has had a terrible human cost and each death is someone losing a partner, a father, a mother, a brother, a family member. But there are lots of us, over 60 million of us, on this lump of rock in the North Sea. So still the chances of being seriously ill or dying with the virus are low, very low. But to me there is a bigger more sinister, more silent infection spreading through the population. That is the fear and dread amongst the considerable number of us who suffer with anxiety in the first place. To those of us this pandemic is a catastrophe. It is exactly what we fear, it is our nemesis. It is that silent, unseen, uncontrollable darkness that has lived within us for years and our anxiety eats it up. Every news report, every personal experience, every piece of internet fake news, everything feeds the monster. It is the fear that debilitates not the virus. Every time we feel warm or cough for no reason we are convinced that this is it. This is our time. But, of course, it almost certainly isn’t, statistically it won’t be. It is just the anxiety feeding. The problem is that this anxiety can be a terrible, all consuming cloak that sits over us and stops us from functioning anything like normally. We live with it in our heads for twenty- four hours a day.
Mental health and mental wellbeing is still a background noise. Despite everything, despite our ‘wakening’ over the last few years. We still do not understand the issues and the problems that sit amongst us. These issues are there all the time but only heighten at times like these. As the pandemic grew and the coverage became incessant you could almost hear the collective scream of those on the anxiety roller coaster.
Getting back to work may be a logistical nightmare for companies but it is an emotional nightmare for those of us who suffer from anxiety. Businesses cannot afford to ignore individual workers in this situation. We need to ensure that we spend as much time listening to them, reaching out to them and engaging with them as we do on marking 2 Metre lines on the floor.