MALAYSIA will be hosting the 35th Asia Pacific Occupational Safety and Health Organisation (APOSHO 35) conference and annual general meeting next year.
National Institute of Occupa-tional Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the country would highlight mental health issues at the conference to be held in Kuala Lumpur.
APOSHO 35 will be jointly organised by NIOSH, Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health and Malaysia Occupational Safety and Health Practitioners Association.
Speaking at this year’s APOSHO 34 in Guiyang, China, Lee said an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) should be introduced at workplaces to provide both prevention and early intervention for employees affected by stress, as well emotional and mental health issues.
He said without EAP, employees with mental illness could not be identified and assisted, which could jeopardise their job performance.
Lee said mental health education and promotion must be increased at workplaces to address the rise of psychosocial problems in society.
“It is most essential in view of our aspiration to achieve developed nation status, which will exert tremendous pressure to deal with our daily responsibilities, ” he said in his keynote paper entitled “Managing Mental Health Issues at Workplace - NIOSH Malaysia’s Approach”.
Lee said all stakeholders must treat mental health like any other health concerns.
“It is worth our attention for every person to get the care they need, including at workplaces, ” he said.
He added that this was in line with Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which provides a legally-binding global framework for promoting the rights of people with disabilities, including psychosocial disabilities.
“It recognises that every person with a disability has the right to work, be treated equally and not be discriminated. They should also be provided with support in the workplace.”
Lee said no workplace was immune to mental health issues and their impact in psychological, social and economic terms was high.
As the country’s leading institute for occupational safety and health, he said NIOSH had introduced several programmes to help employers and their staff manage mental health at the workplace, apart from organising various health promotional programmes.
He said the mental health module was one such initiative introduced in collaboration with the Health Ministry.
“It is part of NIOSH Malaysia’s Total Wellness and Health Promotion Programme, where employers and their employees learn mental health issues and adopt the best strategies to manage the problem.
“They will also be exposed to healthy lifestyle and learn about obesity and other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension, which could also contribute to mental health problems, ” explained.
According to the 2016 Malaysian Health System Research report, mental illness has been identified as a leading cause of economic loss at all levels because of its direct and indirect health costs.
It is bound to also cause absenteeism, loss of productivity at work and reduce in income and national economic output.