#Bahamas, October 11, 2017 – Nassau – Globally, it is estimated that one out of five persons in the workplace will experience a mental health condition, Dr. Keva Thompson, Consultant on Non-Communicable Diseases, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) said.
Despite this, there is a lack of awareness of mental health in the workplace, Dr. Thompson said during the opening ceremony of ‘World Mental Health Day’ Symposium hosted by Public Hospitals Authority at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, October 10, 2017. She said, furthermore, people with mental illnesses typically conceal their illnesses for fear of discrimination and stigmatization when looking for or keeping a job.
Dr. Thompson noted that the WHO in collaboration with the World Mental Health Federation celebrates World Mental Health on October 10 each year with the objectives of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world, and mobilizing support for mental health. This year’s theme is ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’.
Dr. Thompson said, “Depression in workers is a leading cause of loss of work productivity, sick leave and premature retirement. “Research has found that the treatment of depression results in a 40 to 60 per cent reduction in absenteeism and/or ‘presenteeism.’
“A $1 investment in the treatment of depression or anxiety leads to a return of $4 in better health and the ability to work.”
She explained that mental health problems have direct impact in the workplace through increases in absenteeism, reduction in productivity at work, increase in disability claims, injuries, illnesses, grievances, high turnover of professionals and legal implications.
“Annually, the global cost of mental health problems in 2010 was estimated at US$2.5 trillion; two thirds of this was directly linked to indirect costs.”
Dr. Thompson said those indirect costs typically are absenteeism and lost productivity. Alarmingly, this number is expected to balloon to US$6 trillion by 2030. She said employers should proactively address poor mental health and depression in the workplace to increase productivity, to reduce costs, and more importantly to support a healthier employee base.
The Consultant added that it is important for both the employer and the co-workers to be able to recognize the signs of poor mental health and depression in the workplace.
She explained that employers can become agents of change and promote mental health in the workplace by considering measures such as:
- Increasing awareness of mental health issues, and diminishing stressful workplace risk factors;
- Developing an organizational climate that promotes well-being and creativity;
- Facilitating access to healthcare for employees who may need it;
- Being understanding and flexible to the needs of employees, and understanding their personal situations;
- Combating stigma and encouraging open discussions in the workplace about mental health.
She said, similarly, colleagues can support those struggling with mental health conditions by making it clear that they want to help, showing they are willing to listen without argument and offering support, while encouraging them to seek professional assistance.
Dr. Thompson pointed out: “If you think for a minute that [a] person is in immediate danger, do not leave him or her alone, but seek help from the emergency services, crisis hotline or a healthcare professional.
“You should also stay in touch with that person and check in and see how they are doing.”
Dr. Thompson said a healthy work environment is important to positive mental health: “A mental health-friendly environment values diversity, offers healthcare that incorporates mental health, has programmes and practices that promote and support health and wellness, provides training for personnel to increase awareness of mental health issues and impact on the workplace, safeguards employee confidentiality, supports employees who seek treatment or require hospitalization or disability leave.
“Globally, the best companies have long [recognized] that employee well-being is a key element in a successful and happy workplace.
“How our employees feel about stress, pressure at work and life balance is integral to the company’s potential for sustainable growth and development,” Dr. Thompson said.
By: Llonella Gilbert (BIS)
Photo caption: Dr. Keva Thompson, Consultant on Non-Communicable Diseases, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) brings remarks during the opening ceremony of ‘World Mental Health Day Symposium’ hosted by the Public Hospitals Authority at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, October 10, 2017.
(BIS Photo/Derek Smith)