It’s been nearly two years since Covid-19 has transformed the way we operate our work/life balance and with some of those changes, there is no going back. One of the most notable changes in 2022 comes from the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) and the addition of the 3 digit 988 phone number, similar to the 3 digit 911 phone number for emergency response. In July of 2020, the FCC adopted new rules designating a new 3 digit phone number (988) for Americans to use in crisis to connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors. The new 988 calls will be redirected to the existing National Suicide Prevention Hotline by July 16, 2022. Switching to the new 988 phone number will make it easier for individuals to access the help they need without memorizing the 11 digit National Suicide Prevention Hotline number, potentially being a life saver for many of the one-in-five adults who experience mental health illness every year.
Covid-19 has also affected how employers are operating, forcing them to acknowledge the increasing stress and depression individuals are facing during the pandemic. Many workplaces have suffered from the Great Resignation, but that doesn’t mean all bad things have come from the pandemic’s effects. Many employees have found their worth in the workforce and are asking for more flexibility and investment in employee wellbeing. Many business leaders and companies are starting to create a company culture and environment that normalizes mental health by creating mental health days, access to therapy, prioritization of autonomy, flexibility and a manageable workload. As some of us have worked from home, through Zoom or behind a mask, the workplace has certainly changed in the last two years, but because of the pandemic, employees are now hopefully able to hold employers to new workplace standards.
Things are also shifting in education as student mental health has been put under significant stress. Schools have been trying to find the best way to educate and have been working diligently to find balance between virtual and in-person learning while keeping students and staff safe over the past two years. An example of some of the changes we are beginning to see, beginning January 2022, legislation has passed allowing Illinois public school students up to five mental health days in a given school year. This is just one way of letting students know that it is ok to seek help and destigmatizing the conversation about mental health. Another example is Eastern Illinois University scheduling Student Mental Health Days in November 2021. College classes were cancelled on these days and wellness activities were available on campus for students, staff and community members to participate in to encourage time to self-care during a lingering pandemic. Hopefully, more universities follow by example and allow students and staff more mental health services and resources in 2022.
The 2022 State of Mental Health in America Report confirms that mental health is continuing to get worse in the U.S. thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Continuing to grow resources and increasing support and education in mental health is the best way to normalize the conversation about mental health, creating better access to services and resources that everyone can utilize.