86% of frontline workers burnt out by the pandemic

4th August 2021

Thousands of frontline workers are being offered a lifeline of mental health support after new figures from SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) revealed that the vast majority (86%) of workers in the sector reported worsening mental health since the pandemic began.

While frontline workers across all sectors noted worsening mental health, the research, carried out by 3Gem on adults in Scotland employed in the frontline sector, found 90% of those working in the retail sector, including supermarket workers, have experienced worsening mental health since the pandemic began. Younger people aged between 25-34 have been the hardest hit.  

Increased feelings of stress and anxiety is also commonplace, with over three quarters (80%) of those surveyed noting a rise. Among the main barriers preventing frontline workers from accessing support include not feeling like their problems were big enough (45%), waiting times (40%) and being too busy (27%).

Now, workers including bus drivers, supermarket workers and social care staff will be able to access Time for You – a new, free service which offers immediate access to three different levels of mental health support: ranging from self-help resources, to access to talking therapies, like cognitive behavioural therapy with trainee psychologists from Glasgow Caledonian University.

The much-needed online and virtual mental health support service will help address these concerns, and is being provided by SAMH in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University and Living Life to the Full (LLTTF).

Fiona Benton, Assistant Director of Delivery and Development at SAMH, said: “Frontline workers have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and it’s extremely worrying to discover so many are struggling. While carrying out some of the most important jobs to keep our local communities going, many have experienced high levels of anxiety and stress, not to mention the worry for the safety of themselves, their loved ones, and the people they help within their roles. 

“Add to that, the pressure many frontline workers were experiencing even before lockdown, and it became clear to us that it has never been more important that frontline workers get the mental health support they need and deserve.

“We know from the research that frontline workers feel they would benefit from help such as talking therapies like cognitive behaviour therapy and access to self-help resources, so we hope that Time For You will be a valuable resource for many people. We urge anyone who is struggling to reach out and take the first step – it’s ok to not be ok.” 

Time For You is not just for those who are classed as key workers, but also for those who have been required to continue to work throughout the pandemic to keep the nation running, such as those providing the nation’s supply, logistics, retail and public transport. The service will be able to support up to 4,000 people.

Vickie Fyfe, Service Manager at Time for You, said they are already seeing the positive impact: “Many people who connect with us are in a really low place and are not sure where to turn – whether that be due to not knowing who to speak to, worried about the stigma of speaking about their mental health in the workplace, or because they think the problems they are experiencing are not big enough to bother others with.

“The Time for You service is for anyone who is struggling with their mental health – and with three levels of support available, we are able to find the right level of support for each person. It’s been overwhelming to see the difference we’re making so far, and I hope we can reach many more people over the coming months.”

Time for You is provided by SAMH, Living Life to the Full and the Glasgow Caledonian University; and funded by Foundation Scotland’s Response, Recovery and Resilience Fund, support by the National Emergencies Trust. 

Dr Bryan McCann, Sport and Exercise Psychologist and Lecturer in Psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “Frontline workers have been superheroes during the pandemic to make sure that vital services are available to the public.  They have been under a huge amount of strain, and some frontline workers are likely feeling the effects of that strain. The Time for You service provides frontline workers with invaluable support during these challenging times.

“GCU is delighted to be able to work with SAMH to help deliver the Time for You service.  Our Trainee Psychologists are providing 1-1 support to frontline workers through the service, and we are conducting an evaluation which will help to enhance the service so that it provides the most appropriate support.”

Helen Wray, Head of Programmes at Foundation Scotland, said: “Foundation Scotland has responded to the rapidly changing needs within Scotland’s communities throughout the pandemic, enabling organisations to deliver vital services on the ground thanks to funding from our donors. The impact on those working tirelessly to help others during this difficult time has been significant, particularly regarding their mental health. By supporting SAMH to deliver the Time for You programme, we’re confident front line workers will feel more equipped, trained and able to cope with the continuing pressures they face during such uncertain times.”

Time for You is open to all frontline workers across Scotland and anyone working in the transport, logistics, food manufacturing and supply, health and social care industries is eligible. Visit samh.org.uk/timeforyou for more information.