Experts caution that existing mental health crisis persists

SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON – Last year took U.S. workers on a pandemic-fueled emotional roller coaster marked by alarmingly high mental health risk levels and worrisome declines in cognitive capacities. As we mark the somber one-year anniversary of COVID-19, Americansare demonstrating their mental resilience. According to the latest Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition,employees are showing mental health improvements – a continuation of the positive trend set in January 2021.By end of last month,stress, memory, resilience, conscious negativity, risk of PTSD, social anxiety and depression returned to levels recorded prior to the pandemic.

For Better and For Worse

There is more good news. Some indicators of mental health are measuring bettertoday than when assessed last year, before the relentless virus arrived in the U.S.When comparing February 2021 to February 2020:

  • Risk of addiction (women only) is down 39%
  • Nonconscious negativity bias is down 8%
  • Social connectivity is up 3%

Conversely, when it comes to focus and general anxiety, the news is not so positive:

  • Sustained attention is down 33%
  • Risk of general anxiety is up 30%

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, powered by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform, is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute.

Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain said, “Despite our nation beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, now is not the time for employers to pull back on mental health investments. A mental health crisis existed long before COVID-19.  Data prior to the pandemic revealed a stunning 70% of U.S. workers’ brain capacity is impaired to some degree by stress and high-risk of mental health conditions – a reminder that the pandemic only amplified an existing crisis that is still left to be addressed.”

Colleen McHugh, executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association, commented, “While it is positive to see improvement in some measures, large employers know that supporting employees’ mental health and overall well-being is a strategic imperative. There is no one size fits all approach. Many employers continue to introduce supportive programs focused on removing the stigma by treating mental health like physical health and providing as much flexibility as possible to support employees during these challenging times.”

“A year into the pandemic, there is clearly hope at the end of the tunnel,” said Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO. “Employers’ focus on empathetic management and setting rational expectations related to managing the virus is helping to mitigate the mental distress of working through this era.”

Garen Staglin, chairman, One Mind at Work, cautioned “While we are very pleased to see positive trends, we should be very clear that anxiety, depression, and PTSD are, and will remain, at elevated levels. Much like the warnings from the CDC on the virus, these conditions need our focus and innovative treatments. They will also long outlive the pandemic and there is no vaccine for them!”

The full Mental Health Index results can be found here. For more information and additional insights there will be a complimentary 30-minute webinar on Friday,March 19 at 12 p.m. EST.Register here:

Methodology: The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users. The Index is NOT a survey or a poll. Data is culled from neuroscientific brain assessments using standardized digital tasks and questions from the Total Brain platform. Participants include workers from all walks of life and regions, job levels, occupations, industries, and types of organizations (public vs. private). The brain assessments used to compile the Mental Health Index were taken weekly from January 18 toFebruary 26, 2021.