Act before workers break down

PETALING JAYA: By 2020, mental illness is expected to become the second biggest health pro­blem affecting Malaysians after heart disease.

For that reason, developing good mental health at workpla­ces is vital to ensure a safe, healthy and productive workforce, said National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

“We must make mental health a priority since no one is immune to mental illness,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Lee was referring to the “Depression: Let’s Talk” theme chosen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for World Health Day 2017, which was observed on Friday.

The campaign is aimed at encouraging those with depression to seek help as more than 300 million people worldwide are now living with the disease.

Lee said WHO found that depression would soon overtake cardiovascular disease in determining the Disability-Adjusted Life Year (Daly) of individuals within the workforce of a country.

Daly is a formula used to mea­sure the number of years lost by an individual within the productive age range due to ill health, disability or early death.

The 2015 National Health Morbidity Survey revealed that 4.2 million Malaysians aged 16 and above – or 29.2% of the total population – are struggling with mental health issues, up from 11.2% in 2006.

Lee said factors for workplace-related depression, stress and burnout included poor work organisation, excessive workloads, job insecurity, sexual harassment and lack of support from higher management, among other­­s.

Lee added that employers must set up Occupational Safety and Health committees to identify mental health-related issues and to form solutions to these pro­blems.

He said an employee assistance programme should be created to provide both prevention and early intervention for employees affected by stress, emotional and mental health issues.

“The Government could introduce guidelines for promoting mental health at workplaces and encourage campaigns and education to help create awareness on the issue,” he added.