WOONSOCKET, R.I. — The COVID-19 pandemic has universally amplified levels of stress and anxiety among women, according to the findings of a recent CVS Health survey. Moms and caregivers were most deeply affected. Six in ten women say the pandemic has had a negative impact on their overall levels of stress, and nearly half (46%) say they are experiencing significantly more or somewhat more stress compared to this time last year. In fact, women said they have experienced fear or concern about the impact of COVID-19 on their family’s or friend’s health (66%), their health (60%) and their household’s financial situation (49%).
The survey, conducted by CVS Health and Morning Consult about the mental health impact of COVID-19, polled 4,400 American adults, including moms and caregivers, from April 8 to April 15, 2021. The study found that when compared to men, women are more likely to agree that they often do not prioritize their own mental health because they are focused on taking care of others (45% versus 38%). When looking specifically at moms, nearly one quarter (23%) say that as a result of the pandemic, they have experienced difficulty providing the necessary caregiving to their children — a higher proportion than the general population of American adults (13%).
“A year into the pandemic, it’s clear that women are just one of many communities hit hardest,” said Cara McNulty, president, Behavioral Health and Employee Assistance Program, Aetna, a CVS Health company. “When stay-at-home orders from the pandemic were put in place, many women quickly recalibrated their daily routines to care for children and family members, often while also managing work responsibilities and at-home duties. Any caregiver — of children or adult loved ones — will tell you that it is a full-time job. During this difficult year, the result has been profound stress, burnout and anxiety that cannot be ignored. This May, we are standing up for women’s mental health, raising awareness and dedicating resources to women, moms and caregivers to support them in prioritizing their own total well-being.”
In recognition of that need, and in honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month and Women’s Health Month, CVS Health and Aetna are shining a light on the mental health crisis plaguing women by taking several measures to prioritize mental well-being for women, moms and caregivers:
- Here 4 U Sessions for Women: According to CVS Health’s data, 60% of moms agree their mental health would benefit from more support for at-home responsibilities, such as cooking, finances, cleaning, childcare and education. With all of these commitments on their shoulders, many moms and caregivers face burnout and have left the workforce or put their careers on hold. A dedicated set of Aetna’s Here 4 U sessions — free, online, peer support sessions offering a safe place for conversations — will be available to the public this month for women to talk about how they are doing emotionally given these obstacles. Separate sessions will cater to women, moms, Black women and moms of children with special needs. Individuals can sign up here.
- Relationship with Girl Scouts of the USA: Aetna is partnering with Girl Scouts of the USA, the largest girl-serving leadership organization in the world, which helps build girls of courage, confidence, and character who help make the world a better place. As of 2021, there are more than 50 million Girl Scout alums – meaning more than one in three women in the United States were Girl Scouts at some point in their lives. Focused on raising awareness for women’s mental health, Aetna is donating $50,000 to the organization and collaborating on a virtual panel discussion for the Girl Scout Alum Network on May 26 focused on mental wellbeing. Individuals can learn more and register to attend here.
- Women’s Mental Health Resource Kit: Women want to take control of their mental well-being — but 42% agree they need help navigating the complex mental health care system or identifying a mental health diagnosis. To begin, Aetna Resources For Living’s resource guide describes the mental load many women are facing, when it’s more than stress and resources to help.
“The data shows clearly that women, moms and caregivers need our help, so we are proud to offer mental well-being care and resources focused specifically on the people who are so foundational to our collective well-being — beginning this month and continuing well beyond,” said McNulty. “By partnering with the Girl Scouts of the USA, we are continuing our commitment to address mental health stigma and help women make their well-being a health care priority.”
Addressing the ongoing need for mental health care
With the impact of the pandemic affecting all populations, the need for mental health care is more critical now than ever. American adults agree that their mental health would benefit from more open conversations about mental health with friends, family and colleagues (49%) and help navigating the complex mental health care system or identifying a mental health diagnosis (42%).
Other mental health resources, such as in-person therapy sessions (38%) and anxiety/stress reduction techniques (40%), are preferred among the general public. CVS Health and Aetna provide members access to 24/7 free emotional support and daily life assistance as part of Aetna’s Resources for Living and regular face-to-face or virtual meetings with licensed clinical social workers through CVS Health HealthHUB locations.
CVS Health and Aetna will also continue a relationship with national nonprofit organization Give an Hour for its A Week to Change Direction event from May 10 to May 16, as well as the ongoing Hospital Heroes Program, which provides free, confidential mental health support to hospital-based workers.
“Broadening awareness of mental health resources is just the beginning of how we help those who are struggling,” said McNulty. “In tandem with removing the stigma of mental health through conversations, greater access to mental health care will bridge the gap for those in need. At CVS Health and Aetna, we are committed to improving equity in mental health care across all communities, a critical component to our efforts toward making mental well-being part of everyone’s preventative care routine.”
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