Kate Nowlan, CEO of CiC and EAPA UK member talks about the experience of supporting workers on the frontline during this global pandemic

EAPs have been in the thick of the pandemic response since the beginning of lockdown in March; each call opens up another individual perspective on a global crisis, another tangle of anxieties.  All providers will have had their own particular challenges as call volumes fluctuate and companies seek increased support delivered in new ways.

At CiC we deliver EAP services to well over a million employees across the globe, and to every sector.  NHS staff in the UK approach us for support with issues of bereavement, exhaustion, anxiety, fear of contamination, lack of PPE and overload.  The hospitality sector need a listening ear as they worry about financial matters, mortgage payments, the risk of redundancy, homelessness.   Staff from every industry phone in to talk of feelings of isolation, finding comfort from the support an experienced clinician provides.  Global news agencies and NGOs express their need for support when being evacuated from overseas postings or when stuck abroad far from home and family. Working from home has presented a vast range of challenges, and the EAP provides invaluable help – signposting to financial and legal advice or family care experts as well as providing much needed emotional support.  Home life is different now.  Fractious relationships might lead to domestic abuse, isolation can lead to severe depression.  Parents struggle to combine home schooling with work demands.  Teenagers fret at the loss of freedom.

The beginning of UK lockdown initially led to a marked drop-off in EAP call volume for CiC. The implications were still being worked out, key workers were intensely busy, working from home was a novelty – and for some people a welcome change, a break. For those with immediate issues there was the challenge of how an EAP could be accessed, getting the space at home to make the call. But that has been followed by a sharp rise in  the requests for help, both from employees and family members, as the full impact of the changes to everyday lives has become a reality.   Finding space to make confidential approaches to the EAP has not been easy for many, and we know that callers may take their mobiles to their cars or phone from their daily exercise routine to access support.

Clinicians answering phones have seen recurring issues over the past weeks and the role of the EAP has never been more critical.   The use of our Managerial Adviceline has increased dramatically as managers look for new tools and techniques to supervise a remote workforce and boost wellbeing.  Helpsheets on sleep, nutrition, exercise, childcare are requested alongside those that will provide resources to help with stress, anxiety or abuse.   We see an increased demand from the NHS – and also engineering and media –  for training that helps prepare staff for bereavement, a form of ‘grieving in advance’ or anticipatory grief. It’s the kind of critical incident support that would normally be delivered on site, but is now happening via online platforms.

The basic bedrock of a classical EAP is the provision of face to face counselling, on site critical incident support and regular account management meetings with key contacts.  All EAPs had to flex their interventions as a matter of urgency – improvising and innovating with different products.  Face to face sessions came to an abrupt end and the use of Skype, What’s App, Webex , Zoom became commonplace methods of communication almost overnight.  Clinicians adapted superbly to the new way of working, ensuring that callers received the same professional help that customers had always expected.  But online communication also has its down side.  Employees began to complain of burnout.  Sitting in front of a screen for hours on end, and experiencing severe exhaustion symptoms after relentless Zoom video calls.  Restful breaks – needed more than ever – have become harder to take.  It became clear that companies needed regular support from their EAP to help with the range of issues emerging as the crisis progressed.  CiC, along with other providers, has developed and delivered succinct, targeted, live web sessions for customers to focus on sharing an understanding of the changes and looking for resilient responses where possible. Organisations have found these an invaluable way of addressing this difficult topic with their people, helping them to feel they are being offered robust support and opening the channels for communication of potential risks and improvements.

The sudden changes in all our lives – WFH, being furloughed, the degrees of social isolation – have led many people to re-think everything.  A counsellor remarked: “…being isolated and with less work responsibilities has somehow forced some people to reflect about their life…as if  the crisis has taken away all external noise. And for the first time some can think about their life with a clearer perspective.”

EAPs have come into their own during the Covid19 crisis.  There has been a popular myth these past few years that we have had our day, and there were those who predicted the gradual demise of the programmes that began life in the US in the 1930s.   In these strange times as we prepare for a New Normal we know that the companies we look after rely on us more than ever to deliver the highest quality mental health services.  Our clinicians and therapists are professional, expert frontline workers and their constant dedication to providing the very best emotional and psychological support to employees all over the world cannot be underestimated.  It is a privilege to belong to the world of EAPs.

Kate Nowlan, CEO, CiC, www.cicwellbeing.com

DCH concludes an alliance with the European association EAEF for the development of the European Sport and Healthy Company Award in Europe

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Madrid, December 27th 2017. DCH – International Organization of Human Resources Directors has signed an agreement with the European Association EAEF (Employee Assistance European Forum) for the international development of the European Sport and Healthy Company Award, handed annually by EHCA (European Healthy Companies Association) in the European Parliament in Brussels.  

EAEF is the European Association that promotes the EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) in Europe. The Employee Assistance European Forum was established in 2002 as the voice for employee assistance professionals in Europe. Membership now includes over 60 professionals and organisations drawn from over 24 countries.

Thanks to the signing of the agreement, EAEF will support the project of EHCA with the international development of the European Sport and Healthy Company Award in the rest of Europe.

DCH and Aces Europe continue to work together to make the ecosystem of the awarded companies grow and promote sport activities between all the citizens in the European Union. This will also promote the private and public initiative with the aim of increasing the support for sport, not only from a professional point of view but also as a means of social cohesion and for the healthy improvement and the quality of life of individual citizens.  

The awarded organizations so far, Cofares and El Pozo, have demonstrated commitment to sport, physical activity and healthy for employees, with own sport facilities or in cooperation with third parties or specific action programmes for workers as a means of healthy and sport. In addition to that, they admit to have headquarters in at least one European country.  

About DCH (
DCH is a professional organization that makes available to managers of Human Resources departments an environment where they can share experiences, knowledge and manage to generate a network of contacts of great professional value. Currently, DCH has more than 800 members, all Human Resources representatives from the main national and international companies.

About ACES Europe (
ACES Europe, a non-profit association based in Brussels that, since 2001, annually awards the European Capital, City, Community and Town of Sport. ACES Europe, in accordance with the principles of responsibility and ethics, is aware of the fact that sport is a factor of integration in society, which improves the quality of life and health of those who practice it.


To get more information contact with DCH:

secretaria.general@orgdch.org | Tel.: 91 640 02 46

EAEF Innovation and Best practice Award 2017

In 2017 the EAEF was pleased to receive three nominations for it’s industry innovation and best practise award:

  • Morneau Shepell: International Student Support Program
  • Clinica Capa: Be Balanced
  • WPO: Virtual Group Counselling

We are proud to share with you these innovations and best practice that our members have developed.

The winning submission came from Morneau Shepell  for their International Student Support Program.

An estimated eight million students will be studying abroad by 2025. International students tend to be at greater risk of developing mental health problems due to the stresses of living in a foreign environment, without a social support network.

Morneau Shepell’s ISSP (International Student Support Program) offers immediate support for students using 24/7 digital chat (via app/online) and telephone, as well as ongoing support through telephone and video counselling. The program integrates with on-campus resources to create a holistic and seamless support network.  Students are matched to counsellors based on language and cultural background, enhancing the positive outcome for program users.

Seventy two percent of users have reported improvement in their mental health. From September 2015 to December 2016, 62% of students reported improvement in class attendance and 71% reported improved productivity.

Morneau Shepell 

Clinica Capa: Be Balanced” programme (“Be Balanced-Por uma Vida Equilibrada).

This program has been designed to meet over 1000 employees and to support the H.R. employee care vision to achieve maximum employee wellbeing, productivity and overall positive motivation, engagement and employee resilience. The program expands on the existing EAP and facilitates further integration of the EAP with other employee care services such as occupational health.

Be Balanced was, in a first stage, primarily directed to employees with excessive weight and other associated life-style problems and concerns. The program launched in April of 2017 with a motivational endorsement from the Director of H.R. to a group of employees, who chose to participate and who met the medical criteria.  Employees were welcomed and inducted into the program by a collaboration of internal and external partners working together to support weight loss and a healthier lifestyle change for participants.  

The program is ongoing and represents a collaboration between diverse stakeholders providing individual support such as a nutritional consultant, a life coach and a personal trainer as well as on a meta level assessment of the dietary offerings in the company canteen, monitoring by the internal health department and regular meetings of providers to evaluate and adapt as needed.

Employees who successfully complete the program will be presented with a gift.


Clinica Capa

Work Place Options: Virtual Group Counselling

Many mental health challenges could potentially benefit from group therapy. WPO found, however, that its members faced emotional and practical obstacles to engaging in group therapy.

Drawing on their experience of supporting members individually through telephonic and video communication, WPO  launched Virtual Group Counselling as a component of its EAP service in January 2017.  The Virtual Group Counselling allows WPO to overcome user barriers to access, utilize and offer it’s clinical expertise around the globe and collect data to support the efficacy of group counselling.


  • Receive clinical assessment for suitability
  • Participate in small issue based groups via telephone or video for 8 consecutive weeks. (The groups are closed and new groups are formed every 2 weeks or as needed).
  • Supported by two qualified clinicians.
  • Contacted individually for quality and effectiveness monitoring.

Members across the board have consistently provided positive feedback and report feeling supported and contained. They report learning new skills and adopting new tools to manage anxiety.  Additionally, the group setting helps normalize the individual’s feelings.

Facilitators report that members have proactively engaged in the sessions and have supported and validated one another.


Young women are now a ‘high-risk group’ for mental illness

Psychological distress in women aged 16-24 is at an all-time high, with record numbers admitting to harming themselves to relieve their distress, according to an alarming study.

Experts say young women are now a “high-risk group” and point to links between mental illness and violence or sexual abuse, and possible pressures from the rise of social media. This has prompted calls from researchers for more funding to protect the nation’s mental health.

The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity survey of mental health and wellbeing, carried out every seven years across England, reveals soaring rates of mental illness among young women, who are suffering from a range of common mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Despite going to their GP for help, only 20% received treatment in the last 12 months, according to the study.

The statistics from NHS Digital show that more than one in four women aged 16-24 reported symptoms of common mental health conditions the previous week – a rise from 21% when the study was last carried out in 2007. Young women were three times as likely as men to report such symptoms, with rates of 9% among males of the same age, the figures show.

Worryingly, in this age group, reports of self-harm in women had trebled to almost 20% between 2000 and 2014. This figure rose to one in four in self-completed questionnaires. Often they were suffering from anxiety or depression. Yet only around a third of this age group received treatment, compared with more than half of over-50s who self-harmed.

Elsewhere, the study found 13% of young women had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – three times the rate recorded when the government-funded study was last conducted in 2007. Experts believe violence and abuse, including rape, was part of the explanation for the sharp rise in PTSD, but they also said a new screening tool may be detecting more cases.

Lead researcher Sally McManus says: “When I first saw the figures I thought it was a statistical blip. The gender gap in mental illness has become most pronounced in young people. These results were staggering, but similar figures have appeared elsewhere. The figures on self-harm are particularly worrying. The risk is that without alternative, positive coping strategies, illnesses will become long-term and entrenched.”

McManus said exposure to violence and abuse was the biggest predictor of mental illness. However, there was evidence that poverty was also a factor and there were possible links to social media, with a “selfie generation” feeling under pressure over their body image.

“I wish we had questions on social media. When I think about this generation now, the biggest change has been in technology. It is not all bad. It can be a good thing – you get access to like-minded people and find different treatment options. But not enough.”

It is a view shared by clinical psychologist Dr Miranda Wolpert, who is committed to transforming and improving child and adolescent mental health services as head of the Evidence Based Practice and Research Unit at University College London. Wolpert, who also leads the mental health stream of the Child Policy Research Unit, said work was still ongoing as to what would most help young people with mental health difficulties.

There are currently only four models of treatment: therapy; medication; behaviour modification or psycho-education (where people were given information on how to manage their own condition). However, she said interventions needed to be more targeted to the needs of an individual. At the same time, there needed to be a model that could improve resilience, involving the wider community. Many schools recognised that distressed pupils needed professional help and pilot projects involving schools and mental health providers were supporting youngsters in a variety of ways.

“This is not just about putting more professionals on the ground, but also increasing the emphasis on things to help, such as mindfulness. We also need to look at ways to tackle inequalities, as mental health difficulties are associated with inequalities and deprivation,” Wolpert says.

One woman hoping to make a difference is Dr Martina Di Simplicio, a Medical Research Council career development fellow, who works in the Emotional Disorders and Mental Imagery group in Cambridge and specialises in developing innovative early interventions for young people.

Di Simplicio says there is a dramatic need for better research into why young people develop mental health issues in order to base new therapies on evidence. “It is important to develop therapies with young people who find it difficult to access mental health treatments,” she adds.

Working in the “Imaginator” project, Di Simplicio, a psychiatrist and cognitive therapist, has co-developed a simple app that uses a series of images aimed at distracting people facing triggers for self-harm.

“Young people who self-harm can wait a long time for treatment. By immersing themselves in a positive image, they can feel some enjoyment. This can be enough to lift their mood. Eventually they can go and do the activity,” she says.

The project, funded by the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East of England, is still in the early stages of development, according to Di Simplicio, who is also using imagery to help young people with bipolar disorder.

 source: theguardian.com

Discover how technology will shape workplace wellness at Employee Benefits Connect 2017

Greg Levine, director of corporate and intermediated business at VitalityHealth, will present a session titled ‘The future of tailored employee wellness schemes’ as part of the driving performance conference stream on Wednesday 1 March 2017.

In his session, Levine will examine the role of technological innovation in driving and reinforcing behavioural change as part of a sustainable health and wellbeing programme in both small and large organisations.

Levine said: “Behavioural change is a complex process and there’s no quick fix for it. What [employers] need in order to change behaviours and change what happens in organisations is [a] long-term, sustainable programme; that’s the key.”

Levine will also discuss how to place employee wellbeing at the top of an organisation’s agenda, and how employers can take concrete steps towards improving employee wellness for individuals, highlighting the business reasons for making these kinds of changes, such as reducing costs and improving staff retention.

Levine added: “[The presentation] will look at the whole benefits space in a much more vibrant and exciting way. [It] will have a different slant and have a different view of what employee benefits can look like today and going forwards.”

Employee Benefits Connect 2017 will take place on Wednesday 1 March 2017 at Park Plaza, London.

source: https://www.employeebenefits.co.uk