Mental Health Awareness Month | Deloitte US has been saved
By Jay Bhatt, D.O., executive director of the Deloitte Health Equity Institute and the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, and Jennifer Fisher, chief well-being officer, Deloitte Services, LP
Mental health has long been a challenge in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated it by increasing social isolation, creating economic uncertainty, making it difficult to get care or delaying care, and adding anxiety about getting sick. In addition, the technology that was used to help keep employees connected, productive, and safe during the height of the pandemic might have made some employees feel less connected, more isolated, and lonelier.
Loneliness can pose both a physical and a mental health risk. It is tied to a higher probability of cardiovascular disease, dementia, anxiety, stroke, depression, and premature death, according to a report released early this month by the U.S. Surgeon General.1 The health effect of being socially disconnected can be as damaging to the body as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to the report.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.2 But mental health is an issue that requires ongoing discussion, particularly in this post-pandemic era. Each year, 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.3
Employers should consider human sustainability
Organizations have the potential to foster human sustainability, which we define as the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society. Some companies that shifted to remote work three years ago may now be weighing the advantages of remote work against the benefits of being in the office with co-workers. Several recent reports have focused on the mental health benefits of combining remote work with being in the office.4
Last fall, Deloitte conducted a marketplace survey of 1,274 US workers across a wide range of industries, regions, education, income levels, and demographics (see The workforce well-being imperative.) We wanted to learn what some employers were doing to try to improve the well-being of their employees and whether those efforts were having an impact.
Based on our findings, three factors appeared to often have an outsized impact on the mental health and well-being of employees—Leadership behaviors at all levels (from a direct supervisor to the C-suite); how the jobs are designed; and how work is conducted across organizational levels. We refer to these factors as the work determinants of well-being. Organizations should strive to create environments that sustainably support humans. But where should they start?
Mental health inequities appear to be widespread
It is not surprising that decades of systemic health inequities have led to significantly worse mental health outcomes “for racial and ethnic minoritized, marginalized, and under resourced populations,” according to a report from the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine.5 Moreover, nearly 6 million Americans are not accounted for in national reporting estimates regarding mental health care, according to the report.
The Deloitte Health Equity Institute (DHEI) is involved in several collaborations that have prioritized mental health inequities among systematically disadvantaged populations. Focusing on interventions can help address mental health and/or the upstream drivers of mental health disparities for various populations. Here are a few of our collaborations:
Humans are social and part of our wiring requires interpersonal connections. Challenges to human sustainability may continue to persist, but organizations can help address the root causes of poor workplace well-being. Employers may have an opportunity to address the changing dynamics of work and move toward a model that could help support human sustainability. And if they do, they may be able to increase productivity and innovation, accelerate growth, recruit and retain workers, strengthen brand value, and have a positive impact on society at large.
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1 Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, May 1, 2023
2 Mental Health Awareness Month, National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2023
3 About Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 25, 2023
4 A potential downside to remote work? Higher rates of depression, Society for Human Resource Management, March 10, 2023
5 The devastating cost of mental health inequities, press release, Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine, September 7, 2022
6 UnidosUS - Latino civil rights and advocacy
7 Introducing New Profit’s first health equity cohort, press release, New Profit, March 18, 2022
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