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Saturday, Jun 25, 2022


Mental Health and the Post-COVID OC Workforce

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COVID-19 upended our personal and professional lives. It stole precious loved ones, bankrupted businesses, and caused millions to lose their jobs and homes. Our world changed overnight, from the way we live, work and learn, to how businesses operate and serve their customers.

From a mental health perspective, the pandemic’s impact was equally swift and harsh. It ushered in a growing wave of anxiety and depression while creating new obstacles for those already grappling with existing psychological issues.

In 2019, prior to the pandemic, 1 in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In 2021, during the pandemic, approximately 4 in 10 adults reported these same symptoms.
What’s more, 56% of young adults ages 18 to 24 experienced pandemic-related consequences, including university closures and job losses, which played a part in poor mental health. Also, within this time frame, parents of children ages 5 to 12 reported elevated instances, a 22% increase overall of worsened mental or emotional health among their kids, including depression, anxiety and psychological stress.

As chief executive of the Mariposa Center, Orange County’s leading nonprofit mental health counseling center, I’ve witnessed, firsthand, the pandemic’s impact on the human psyche.

From bereavement to health stressors to financial implications and isolation, COVID-19 played a key role in mental health decline in the past 24 months alone across nearly every client demographic we serve.


The Employment Paradigm Shift

Orange County businesses and their employees were not immune to the pandemic’s wrath.

Shortly after COVID-19 hit, approximately 272,000 workers were out of a job. OC unemployment quickly spiked from 2.8% to a staggering 15.5%.

School and daycare closures forced women to reduce their hours or leave the workforce altogether to take care of their families.

Professional fallout from the pandemic forced millions to rethink their work lives through a different lens.

When I consider the pandemic and the seemingly existential crisis that occurred, I am reminded of the phrase, “Every challenge—every adversity—contains with it the seeds of opportunity and growth.”

At Mariposa, we’ve seen several post-COVID themes emerge:

People are rethinking how to work, how to live and how to better harmonize both.

People regard the pursuit of wealth differently, now. Today, for many, “wealth” means richness in fulfillment and purpose, and/or flexibility in their work lives.

Executive mindset is evolving to view both the physical and mental health of employees and their families with equal importance.

One need only look at the “Great Resignation” to know that we are amid a paradigm shift.
More than 24 million U.S. workers quit their jobs between April and September 2021, according to Bloomberg Business Week. Among workers, surveys reveal an increase in feelings of burnout and a deterioration in mental health.

These sentiments, brought to a head by the pandemic, are even more pervasive among younger workers in the millennial and Gen Z categories. In fact, two-thirds of millennials and 86% of Gen Z workers who left their jobs in 2021 cited mental health reasons, according to a Mindshare Partners Survey.

About 90% of people who recently left their job or were planning to do so reported being “burned out and unsupported,” according to a survey last January by Cengage Group Research.


Successful Businesses Make Mental Health a Priority

Yes, COVID-19 brought significant challenges, but it also served as a wake-up call for employers to bring about positive change in the workplace.

This comes with understanding (1) how important mental health is to the people you employ and (2) how business success hinges on the success with which your employees receive the mental health support and services they need.

Before the pandemic, over 50% of employees were “languishing” at any given time. Today, employee mental health has become such an important topic, roughly 87% of employers plan to enhance their mental health benefits over the next two years. As people continue to process residual grief and stressors from COVID, and as new concerns emerge with war, recession, and social and political unrest, it has never been a more important time for employers to make mental health a priority.

Mariposa Center is doing all we can to support local businesses in these efforts. We are a 45+ year nonprofit mental health staple in the Orange County community, providing both in-person and virtual telehealth counseling for individuals, couples and families, as well as group therapy services. Our counselors address a wide range of issues, including anxiety, depression, grief, substance abuse, domestic violence and trauma.

Mariposa works closely with Orange County shelters and schools to provide counseling services to those in need. Today, we work with corporations to address the growing problem of mental health decline on the job.

Orange County businesses can do so much to support and improve employee mental health, at minimal cost, whether by providing Employment Assistance Programs or by offering educational workshops conducted by Mariposa for their employees.

The return is far worth the investment when you consider that stress-related healthcare and missed work due to mental health issues cost employers an estimated $300 billion annually.
It’s difficult to predict how longstanding and far reaching the pandemic’s impact will be on the health and well-being of our minds and budgets.

What is clear is how committed Mariposa Center is to helping employers support men, women and children as they rebound from mental health issues brought on, and exacerbated by, the COVID-19 pandemic.

To collaborate with Mariposa Center in supporting the mental health and well-being of your employees, call (714) 547-6494, email info@mariposacenter.org, or visit www.mariposacenter.org.

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