Workers in the social service industry provide valuable assistance to people in need, but they often do so at the cost of their own mental health. The mental health toll can affect job performance. It can also lead to health issues. Employers can help by providing programs specially designed to address the impact of mental health issues in social services.
A Look at the Social Service Industry
Social service industry workers can be found in a wide range of institutions. Some work with children in residential care, foster care and adoptions services. Some provides services for the developmentally disabled. Social service workers can also be found in substance abuses and addition treatment centers, emergency shelters and food banks.
Despite the differences, there are also many similarities. Social service workers interact with the public, and many work specifically with people who have special needs. They provide essential services, and the work can be rewarding, but it can also be very demanding and stressful.
Stress Levels Are on the Rise
Workers are reporting higher stress levels. According to Human Resources Director, a study found that 88% of workers say they are more stressed now than they were five years ago. As a result, 90% say they are losing sleep and 34% say they have quit.
There are many reasons for increased stress levels, and the problem is not completely unique to the social services industry. However, the pandemic has been a major contributor to recent stress levels, and the social services sector is feeling a lot of the pressure.
The pandemic has contributed to housing and food insecurity, and according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 18 million adults live in households that do not get enough to eat, and 11 million adult renters are behind on their rent payments. Recent research has found that alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic, and research from UC Davis shows that the pandemic has also contributed to an increase in domestic violence. Social service workers are dealing with these societal issues in the course of their work while also trying to manage their own pandemic-related stress. It’s a lot for anyone to handle.
The Impact of Stress and Mental Health Issues
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, long-term stress can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety and other serious health problems.
Stress can also negatively impact the employer. The American Institute of Stress says that job stress costs the U.S. industry more than $300 billion each year because of reduced productivity, turnover, absenteeism, accidents, workers’ compensation, and medical, legal and insurance costs.
Addressing Stress and the Mental Health Toll
Mental health issues must be addressed. Organizations can start by opening the doors of communication to determine what social service workers need to thrive. This help may come in many forms, such as:
- Reduced workloads and time off to recharge
- Stress management and relaxation training
- A supportive environment where workers feel appreciated
- Mental health benefits and Employee Assistance Programs
As always, Tangram is here to assist brokers and employers with creative workplace solutions. Contact us to learn more.