IT is fitting that the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is Mental Health in the Workplace.
There is an increasing number of people experiencing stress in the workplace, with the National Health and Morbidity Survey revealing that mental health problems among adults had increased to 29.2 per cent in 2015, from 10.7 per cent in 1996 and 11.2 per cent in 2006.
Stress can result in mental health disorders. Anxiety and depressive disorders are common mental disorders that arise from chronic or severe stress.
Psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and counsellors are attending to an increasing number of people experiencing stress, anxiety and depression.
Although stigma is a barrier to accessing professional help, a greater awareness of mental health disorders has led to working people seeking professional assistance.
The saying “prevention is better than cure” is applicable to mental health in the workplace.
An awareness of factors resulting in mental health disorders is the beginning of prevention.
Some of the causes of stress in the workplace are heavy workload and interpersonal conflicts. There are limits to the workload that employees can cope with.
Increasing profits should not be to the detriment of the health and mental health of employees.
Many employees also have difficulty managing new roles that they are not familiar with. The inability to cope with stress resulting from a change of work type or work role can result in mental health disorders.
Conflicts between colleagues, and between employees and management are also a cause of stress.
Healthy communication, dialogue and discussion in the work place are important preventive measures.
The awareness that mental health disorders can result in a decrease in occupational functioning and thus productivity should spur employers, management of companies and institutions to promote mental health in the workplace.
The availability of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), provided by many multinational companies, like Taylor’s University, has encouraged employees to seek help for mental health issues.
EAPs provide private and confidential professional services. It is encouraging to note that some local institutions and companies offer EAP to employees.
It is hoped that more companies and institutions will provide such programmes or services to their employees.
Employees require support from their employers, the management and each other for good mental and physical health.
The theme of World Mental Health Day 2017 reminds all of us that we need to promote good mental health in the workplace.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DR XAVIER V. PEREIRA
Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences, Taylor’s University