COVID-19

Employers ramping up mental health services in COVID-19 pandemic

Meghan McCarty Carino Mar 19, 2020
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As more people are social distancing at home, remote counseling sessions are a good option. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
COVID-19

Employers ramping up mental health services in COVID-19 pandemic

Meghan McCarty Carino Mar 19, 2020
As more people are social distancing at home, remote counseling sessions are a good option. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Some employers are stepping up to provide help for workers struggling with the stress of a global pandemic.

Starbucks announced earlier this week that every worker can get 20 free mental health counseling sessions, and many other employers are offering resources beyond their traditional health care plans.

Video on demand

Heading for the therapist’s physical couch is not an option in our new reality of social distancing, so Andrew Facemire was glad when his employer, Northern Arizona University, started offering on-demand video counseling.

“For someone like me that has an anxiety disorder, knowing that I can get a hold of someone really quickly if I have an anxiety attack, it’s really important because at this time it’s just really easy to get overwhelmed.”

Meditation app

At data analytics firm ThoughtSpot, employees like Candice Locke recently got a subscription to the meditation app Calm. She’s been working alone in her house in Mountain View, California for the last two weeks and is now under a shelter-in-place order. She’s been using the app several times a day.

“As soon as I start to focus too much on the news, I then bring it up and that ‘Take a breath’ is a good way to reset. Just helping me stay calm, focused, grounded,” she said.

Does it help?

Tom Insel, the former head of the National Institute of Mental Health, said these kinds of free, direct employer programs could be more effective at getting people immediate help than traditional health care providers in times of crisis.

“They’re more convenient in that they can do this through the company’s website and now there are a whole series of different companies and different tools that are available,” he said, “everything from peer support and coaching all the way to one on one therapy.”

Still, he said, employee assistance programs are often limited at smaller companies and those that employ hourly workers. And of the estimated half of private sector workers with access to these resources, less than 7% typically use them.

But this crisis could be a turning point, said Laurie Ruettimann, a human resource consultant in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Coronavirus is putting pressure on workers in ways that will really test the well-being not only of the workforce, but the entire society. And I think that has real consequences favorably for HR policies,” she said.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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