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COVID Crisis and the Toll on Our Mental Health

September 22, 2020

By Ben Kimmel

New York, NY​ – Although plans for a Coronavirus vaccine are still unclear as we move into the cooler months of autumn, some of our city’s prior mental health initiatives have given way to Covid updates and stories about infections.

Before the outbreak, companies were rapidly spending more for the mental health of their employees. According to Aetna Behavioral Health, annual costs for mental health increased twice as much as medical expenses in recent years.
More and more, common mental health conditions such as depression and substance abuse disorders have become more costly to employers. In part, workers that face mental challenges are concerned about the stigmas that apply to their condition; therefore, seeking help can come too late. Even worse is seeking help after a huge downfall which can also affect others both on and off the job at potentially fatal and catastrophic levels.
All of these statistics are based on pre-Covid conditions. However, in post-Covid times, these statistics have become worse. Hospitals, recovery advocates, and specialists are reporting an increase of overdoses. Depression is spiking. There is a rise in domestic violence and pregnancy as well. Aside from financial concerns, emotional challenges prove the focus on mental health and personal recovery options are essential to say the least.
According to reports, in an effort to ensure mental health services, 95% of union workers had access to employer medical benefits in 2019 compared to only 68% of non-union workers. One of every ten workers in the US belongs to a union, which offers bargaining agreements to directly benefit the wellness and health of all members.
Mental health and substance abuse costs US businesses between $80 and $100 billion dollars annually in pre-Covid times. However, now times are worse. Therefore, matters are worse and the need for attention is critical.
Fortunately unions have created various models to assist their members with peer to peer support services. Some unions have created Emergency Assistance Programs or Member Assistance Programs. Ever reminding us the benefit of union involvement is not just about a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. In fact, union involvement will not only provide the necessary benefits needed to maintain both physical and mental health, but more importantly, union involvement provides the support to overcome personal afflictions that have crippled our Country, long before Covid took place.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate. Ben can be reached at

September 22, 2020

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