COVID-19: analysing approaches to mental health
The COVID-19 crisis has brought many issues in society to light, with individuals being impacted by the pandemic in varying ways. Charlotte Nisbet, Analyst on the Governance and Responsible Investment Team and member of the Janus Henderson Mental Health Group, discusses the importance of mental health and wellbeing from an investment and employer perspective, which has come to the fore in recent months.
- Mental health is an integral and essential component of health and has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Encouragingly, an increasing number of companies are telling us that they recognise mental health as an issue and are seeking to support employees.
- Our engagement with companies has affirmed our belief that businesses with good wellbeing and mental health policies have better employee retention, a favourable work culture and a more resilient workforce.
Mental health is an integral and essential component of health according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which defines ‘health’ as "a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." 1
The issue of mental health and wellbeing has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 crisis. To name only a few triggers, many individuals are facing unemployment, economic uncertainty, bereavement, isolation and are working on the ‘front line’, which can contribute to a potential deterioration in mental health. A WHO report published in October 2020 indicates that COVID-19 is disrupting mental health services in most countries. Almost 90% of the 130 surveyed countries reported that mental health and psychosocial support services are in their COVID-19 national response plans. However, just 17% of these countries have ensured that there is full funding available to cover these additional services.2
Before the pandemic, statistics on the state of global mental health were already alarming. According to the WHO the global economy loses more than US$1 trillion per year due to depression and anxiety3, and globally there is less than one mental health professional for every 10,000 people.4 In addition, work carried out by the Lancet Commission states that mental disorders are on the rise in all countries and are due to cost the global economy US$16 trillion by 2030.5
An investor and employer perspective
At Janus Henderson we have been addressing this issue from an investor perspective and as an employer. Through our work as investors, our investment teams hold thousands of meetings annually with companies and often discuss environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
We have increasingly discussed the topic of mental health with companies and we have been very encouraged by responses that this is an issue corporate management teams recognise is of great importance and are seeking to address. COVID-19 has naturally brought mental health into the spotlight, with many more companies talking to us about how they have been supporting employees during this difficult time.
As investors our approach to engagement is collaborative and we will often share best practice insights and mental health resources with our investee companies. Generally, those companies that had strong mental health and wellbeing resources in place prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 have been well equipped to provide employees with any additional support needed. For example, companies that have a proportion of health benefits assigned to mental health resources, employee assistance programmes, internal mental health representatives and training have all been able to support their employees well during this difficult period. Another important aspect to our engagement with companies regarding mental health is the importance of thinking about it from a client and customer perspective. When applicable, we will often engage with companies to discuss and emphasise the importance of how they consider and put in place policies to help protect the mental health of their customers.
Mental health is also an increasingly important investment theme. There are now many companies that develop products, solutions and services that are directly aimed at aiding people’s mental health. For example, this is a significant growth area for healthcare providers and extends to related industries.
A positive correlation
Our corporate engagement has affirmed our belief that companies with wellbeing and mental health policies generally have better employee retention, a favourable work culture and a more resilient workforce. We as investors recognise the importance of continuing to engage with companies on this topic based on our view that a healthy and beneficial culture within the businesses that we invest in is vital to success. It is clear to see that good businesses have moved with the times and address mental health within their organisations. According to the WHO, studies have shown that every US$1 spent on evidence-based care for depression and anxiety can return US$5.6
Advocacy for mental health support
Janus Henderson has long been an advocate for mental health support and offers a wide range of resources for its employees. We strive to promote the health and overall wellbeing of our employees and their families by focusing on five interconnected elements within a wellbeing framework: Career, Financial, Mental, Physical and Social. Our mission is to improve the wellbeing of our employees by raising awareness and providing various resources and programmes that enable employees to consider adopting a healthier lifestyle. One of the initiatives is complimentary subscriptions to Headspace, a mobile app, designed to facilitate mindfulness and meditation in bite-sized exercises, supported by an employee assistance programme.
This is Me
Since 2018 Janus Henderson has been a proud corporate sponsor of This is Me, a pioneering campaign developed to help reduce stigma, dispel myths and provide a platform for employees to share with colleagues their stories and experience of dealing with mental health. Every year we observe World Mental Health Day (10 October) and arrange events around this date to provide awareness and support for the mental health and wellbeing of our employees.
Training & Wellbeing Hub
Additionally, Janus Henderson has provided mental health training to managers and employees. We have more than 50 trained Mental Health Champions globally available for our employees to reach out to, who can support and signpost colleagues to the appropriate resources.
During the pandemic we launched the Wellbeing Hub with resources from our supplier partners to support employee wellbeing during this challenging time. For example, every Wednesday in July was dedicated to employee wellbeing where colleagues globally were invited to attend virtual webinars and explore a host of resources being offered in support of social, physical and mental health. This also created greater social connection with more than 1,000 employees taking part. The hub remains a valuable resource and will benefit employees at Janus Henderson, along with future initiatives.
Post pandemic we are likely to see an increased strain on global mental health services, which were experiencing capacity constraints prior to the pandemic, with many individuals facing longer-term mental health problems. While the pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from this illness, it has also affected people who had not previously experienced poor mental health.
In the UK, for example, the Office for National Statistics stated recently that the number of adults reporting depressive symptoms in the UK has almost doubled compared to this time last year.7 Therefore, it is important for us from an investor point of view to encourage companies held within our portfolios, or those that are being analysed for consideration, to have the right resources in place to support their workers. And from an employer perspective, we will continue to provide resources to our employees to help anyone who may be facing difficulties during this period and in the future.
1Mental health: strengthening our response, March 2018
2COVID-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries, WHO survey,
3Mental Health In the Workplace, May 2019
4Policy Brief: COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health, 13 May 2020
5Lancet Commission: Inaction on Mental Health Crisis Will Cost World $16 Trillion by 2030,
6COVID-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries, WHO survey,
7Coronavirus and depression in adults, Great Britain: June 2020