New Boundaries, New Uncertainties: COVID-19 as both Barrier and Gateway to Engagement with Online Mental Health Training and Support

Paula Mc Fadden, Trisha Forbes, Karen Galway, Paul Best, Heike Schroder, Paula McFadden, Patricia Mackin (now Gillen), Mark Tully, John Moriarty

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

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Abstract

As well as being a common source of stress, the workplace can be an arena in which greater awareness of the nature and causes of mental ill-health can be fostered. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of work and the context of occupational health. iAmAWARE is an online platform, which enables employees to access psychoeducation and stress reduction training. Piloting of iAmAWARE with participant organisations coincided with the beginning of COVID lockdown. This paper reflects on lessons learned from introducing iAmAWARE and considers how participants reported the impact of lockdown on their personal wellbeing. Methods Following prior consultation and design input from representatives of the organisations, a prototype of iAmAWARE was made available to participants, with surveys before and after the period capturing wellbeing, workplace stress and mental health literacy. Results COVID-19 presents major challenges for both researchers and organisations wishing to positively impact employees’ mental health. The participation of organisations and employees was put under strain by uncertainty and demands of responding to lockdown conditions. Our study demonstrates growing levels of engagement with mental health, suggesting demand for programmes which are demonstrably effective and adaptable to shifting organisational contexts. Conclusions Employers are correct to view COVID as a moment to invest in employees’ mental wellbeing and allow employees time to upskill and increase awareness. Researchers must be flexible, adaptable and sensitive to the needs of organisations if they wish to produce research which impacts workplace wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQueens University Belfast
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2021

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