IT is fitting that the theme for 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 has increased from 10.7% in 1996, to 11.2% in 2006, to 29.2% in 2015.
This experience of stress can result in mental health disorders if not adequately managed. Anxiety and depressive disorders are the common mental disorders that arise from chronic or severe stress.
Psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and counsellors are attending to an increasing number of people who are experiencing stress, anxiety and depression. Although stigma is a barrier to accessing professional help, a greater awareness of mental health disorders has led working people to seek professional assistance.
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 work load, work type stress and interpersonal conflicts.
Increasing profits should not be to the detriment of the health and mental health of employees. The inability to cope with the stress resulting from a change of work type or work role can result in mental health disorders.
Interpersonal conflicts between colleagues, and between employees and management is also an evident cause of stress. Healthy communication, dialogue and discussion within 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 and the management of companies and institutions to promote mental health in the work place.
The availability of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provided by many multinational companies, like Taylor’s University, has encouraged employees to seek help for their mental health issues.
EAPs provide private and confidential professional services. A number of local institutions and companies are also offering the EAP for their employees. It is hoped that many more companies and institutions do the same.
Employees require support from their employers, the management and each other. This support is essential for the maintenance of 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 work place.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DR XAVIER V. PEREIRA
Consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
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