By Renee Schofield

May 10-16 is National Prevention Week (NPW). What does that mean? It is a time to bring awareness and recognition to the work done around substance misuse prevention and mental health issues. With a pandemic in full swing, Prevention Week carries a special significance. According to a Nielsen market research project, alcohol sales were up by 55% for the week ending March 21. Hoarding for quarantine? Perhaps. We know that substance misuse increases during times of crisis. And with millions of people working from home, the opportunity to imbibe during the day also increases. What starts out as a way to relax and recover from a stressful day, now can become a daily habit to self-medicate for worry and stress relief. 

May is also Mental Health Awareness month. Again, as we experience life during COVID-19 this takes on a special significance. The uncertainty we are all dealing with takes its toll on people. Anxiety about finances and work, health fears, family relationship upheavals as people are unexpectedly stuck at home together, boredom, schooling the kids at home – these are all challenges that can overwhelm and lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Everyone reacts differently to stress, but research has shown that suicides go up during times of crisis. Those who suffer from mental health issues are more vulnerable now than ever. If stress begins to affect your daily activities, please contact your healthcare provider your mental health is as important as your physical health.  

As employers, re-opening our workplaces will bring relief to some and added stress to others. It is critical for us to keep an eye out for employees who may need extra support when they return to work. Over the last weeks, people’s lives have changed significantly without the usual support systems in place. They are leaving self-quarantine to now spend most of their waking hours in the workplace. Therefore, the employer may well be the first line of opportunity for recognizing a problem. Preparation is key. You can learn a lot by visiting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline offers free and confidential information in English and Spanish on treatment and services, 24 hours a day. Call (800) 662-4357 or TTY: (800) 487-4889. Another helpful resource is the CDC website. Also, check out Mental Health America’s toolkit for tips on how to support others. 

One thing is certain, we are all experiencing unprecedented changes. Being available to provide support for each other will assist us in getting through this time of crisis. If you need more assistance, please feel free to contact TSS. Our Safety Division can provide you with some resources for you, your company or your family.