Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s latest monthly mental-health index, which includes a measure of how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting Canadian workers’ mental health, has reached a new low of 63.

This compares to a benchmark of 75 and is unprecedented in the three-year period that data has been collected, noted a press release. “An overall score of 63 is very concerning,” it said. “Such a score is typically only seen in the subset of employees who have major life disruption and mental-health risk. The largest negative change was seen in the measure of anxiety, followed by helplessness, optimism and isolation.”

In addition to the overall assessment of mental health, the survey also asked respondents about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The majority (81 per cent) of respondents said they situation is  negatively affecting their mental health, ranging from some concern but an ability to cope (49 per cent) to feeling the crisis has a negative, very negative or significantly negative impact on their mental health (32 per cent).

Read: How to support employees’ mental health during coronavirus

“We can’t ignore the reality that mental-health concerns and anxieties will continue to worsen as COVID-19 escalates,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer at Morneau Shepell, in the release. “Now is the time for business leaders and governments to take action, ramp up mental-health efforts and help normalize the anxieties that individuals may be feeling.

“We’re proud to see our governments and many Canadian organizations stepping up to the plate to expand mental-health offerings for those who need it, including individuals who have been laid off. We strongly encourage all Canadians to inquire about the services available to them through their current or former employer. Together, we can minimize long-term damage and ensure that we come out of this challenging time stronger than before.”

Morneau Shepell’s mental-health index also assessed the main coronavirus-related factors that are leading to these mental-health concerns. The top concern is the financial impact of the pandemic (55 per cent), followed by the fear of getting ill or having a loved one pass away (42 per cent, respectively) and uncertainty around how the virus will impact family (33 per cent).

Read: Webinar: Coronavirus: What do employers need to know?

“Perceptions of COVID-19 have changed drastically since the first case entered Canada in January, from initially viewing the virus as an unknown to now as a threat,” said Paula Allen, senior vice-president of research, analytics and innovation at Morneau Shepell, in the release. “These findings confirm that COVID-19 is not just an infectious disease issue, we are looking at a mental-health crisis. This survey is of working Canadians, which makes this pandemic as relevant for businesses as it is for public health.”