Salt Lake City, Utah — The governor’s office reports that during the course of the pandemic, there’s been a 36% increase in calls to the Utah Crisis Line.
On Tuesday Gov. Spencer J. Cox announced an executive order to provide paid leave for mental health for state executive employees.
Tens of thousands of state employees will receive four hours for mental health treatment or education starting next year. The four hours can be broken into hourly segments.
According to John Barrand, the executive director of the state’s Department of Human Resource Management, there are two reasons why they chose to offer four hours.
“We currently give four hours to physical wellness checks, so aligning our mental wellness strategy gives us the right starting point to drive this conversation,” he said. “A four-hour block gives employees the chance to focus on mental health through wellness counseling activities, webinars, exercise, professional counseling, and a myriad of other activities. As this block of time is specifically set aside to focus on mental health, it can lead to employees using ‘sick leave’ to continue their journey.”
“We all need to do better at taking care of ourselves and those around us,” Cox added. “We need to shift the way we talk about mental health and make the appropriate care more accessible. Together we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.”
According to Dr. Travis Mickelson, the director of mental health integration with Intermountain Healthcare, anxiety and depression continue to be issues that people battle during the pandemic, but he also said more patients feel comfortable coming forward to talk about it.
“In our primary care clinics, we have more people coming in to talk to their primary care clinician about things like anxiety and depression,” he said.
To make sure employees are getting the resources they need, a foundation with the Salt Lake Chamber is working with local businesses.
“We spend nearly a third of our lives at work,” said Nic Dunn, director of Utah Community Builders. “Businesses are in a really unique and important position to have a positive impact on mental health.”
According to Dunn, businesses are making changes like adding benefits, offering mental health days or adjusting leave policy.
“It’s important that this effort isn’t just about finding workers who have a clinical diagnosis of a mental illness and pushing resources to them,” he said. “It’s a broader approach so every single one of us can be more emotionally fit.”