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View More Press Releases by Torchlight

Press release:

Working Families Face Rising Special Education and Mental Health Challenges, Torchlight Report Finds

Issued by: Torchlight

Date: Sept. 2, 2020

Torchlight Report of Working Caregiver Concerns finds U.S. employees reported a 35.5% rise in anxiety and depression, 48.4% increase in concerns about children’s IEPs, and 37.5% increase in emotional challenges with their children.

BOSTON, September 02, 2020 -- Torchlight, a leading provider of employee-caregiver support solutions, today announced the results of its multi-phased report of the hardships U.S. employees are facing during COVID-19. The Torchlight Report of Working Caregiver Concerns found that U.S. employees are under siege on multiple fronts as they manage escalating education issues with their children, surging mental health and social challenges with both their children and elderly family members, and their own increasing burnout due in part to struggles with self-care. The Phase Two of the Torchlight Report compared user data from June 1, 2020 – August 15, 2020 to Phase One data which ran from March 16, 2020 – May 31, 2020.

“The second phase of our report should serve as a clear call to action for U.S. employers,” said Adam Goldberg, CEO and founder of Torchlight. “Employees are burnt out, wrestling with their own mental health challenges brought on by the companion crises of COVID-19 and caregiving. With the education system turned upside down, children are suffering from education disparities, worsening anxiety, and in some cases, other mental health struggles. On top of this, the increased isolation and fear that many employees’ elderly family members are enduring contributes to employees’ own deteriorating mental health and already challenging caregiving responsibilities.”

Key findings from Torchlight’s client data since the onset of COVID-19:

  • Families of children with special needs and other learning challenges reported increasing concerns. Phase Two data reveals a 48.4% increase in concerns about Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), along with a 21.7% increase in learning concerns compared to the first phase. With nearly 14% of U.S. students receiving special education and related services through IEPs (U.S. Department of Education), the widespread worry that children’s learning and social-emotional development will regress is especially pronounced given the current looming uncertainty about providing quality education safely to the nation’s children during this phase of the pandemic. In many cases, logistical challenges imposed by the pandemic are preventing children on IEPs from receiving services such as speech/language, occupational, physical, and other therapies, among other supports, provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), federal special education law.
  • Children have struggled with increased emotional challenges since the onset of the pandemic. In Phase Two, 30.83% of employee caregivers reported emotional challenges with their children versus 22.42% in the first phase, a 37.5% increase. Emotional challenges include anxiety, depression, stress, isolation, irritability, and mood dysregulation.
  • Anxiety and depression concerns for elderly adults also rose sharply over the first two phases of the Torchlight Report. Overall, there has been a 53.3% increase in depression and anxiety concerns since the outbreak of the pandemic, with a 35.5% jump coming in the second phase. Social isolation, loss/grief, and fear of contracting COVID-19 are risk factors for elevated anxiety and depression among elderly adults.
  • Perhaps the most important factor for employers to recognize, employees who are caring for children, elderly family members, or both reported that they are struggling with their own self-care. In the second phase of the report, there was a 31.9% increase in employee caregivers expressing concerns about their own wellbeing. Increased stress, fatigue, and ultimately burnout associated with caregiving pose new challenges for employers.

“We undertook this data analysis and report to better understand key factors informing rapidly evolving workforce needs. The data reveals an emerging trend that the protracted pandemic is accelerating the burnout of millions of caregivers in the American workforce. This widespread mental health curve, lagging that of the virus, will require a systemic undertaking to flatten in the years to come,” said Goldberg. “The human resource leaders I’m speaking with are recognizing and eager to address -- now more than ever -- the parenting and caregiving needs of their employees during this unprecedented crisis. This is a good thing. Hopefully, we will look back at this period as the inflection point when U.S. employers committed to making caring their business, too.”

The Torchlight Report of Working Caregiver Concerns is an aggregation of data analytics representing thousands of employed U.S. caregivers of both children and elders. Data from real-time caregiver interactions within the Torchlight platform yield concern indicators comparing pre-COVID-19 levels with those found in subsequent, comparable 75-day timeframes. Pre-COVID-19 is defined as January 1, 2020 – March 15, 2020. Phase One is March 16, 2020 – May 31, 2020; Phase Two is June 1, 2020 – August 15, 2020; and Phase Three will be August 16, 2020 – November 30, 2020.

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