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Work places should provide conducive atmosphere for mental health

By Jimmy Odoki Acellam

Work places should provide conducive atmosphere for mental health

A mentally healthy workplace is crucial for everyone and every business. Work- life balance is a priority for many employees today. The workplace and workforce are changing. Employees are beginning to favour a workplace that cares for their wellbeing. Yet despite these changes, the World Federation for Mental Health says that 50% of people with depression are untreated and that an average of 36 workdays are lost per depression episode and 10% of the employed population have taken time off work due to depression. And, one in five people in the workplace experience a mental health condition.
The above demonstrates the importance and need for a conducive atmosphere for mental health at the work place. While many employers are developing policies to support a healthy workforce, there is no shared vision for mental health in the workplace. The pace and nature of work is changing which can make jobs a major source of emotional strain. Workplace mental health issues like job stress, work -life conflict, harassment and violence exert a toll on the work force leading to significant social costs and impede productivity. Therefore, mental health awareness at the work is beneficial to everyone. The employers, employees, their families and the community.
Depression in the workplace is a leading cause of lost work productivity. To combat this, we have to address the negative attitudes and prejudice associated with mental ill-health in the workplace. We also have to empower individuals and employers to take actions that promote mental health resilience.
Employees have been victimized at their workplaces on account of their mental health status and some have had their contracts terminated. Targeting of service users at workplaces leads to more stigma. The workplace should be an avenue for help, where employees confide to their employers on the mental health challenges faced. Stigma against service users at the work place has to end.
WHO and the International Labour Organisation(ILO) point out that Given the importance of work, and due to advances made in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental health problems, it makes eminent sense to address all aspects of the mental wellbeing of employees.
But employees too have to take care of their own mental health wellbeing by seeking assistance when needed. However, this should be completed by a support system inside and outside the workplace
Disability associated with severe mental health problems can no longer serve as an excuse to deny those who wish reasonable access to competitive employment. The workplace should not discriminate.
Workplace stress is a collective challenge that has to be tackled head on. According to ILO, we live in an increasingly stressful working life in which global competitive processes have transformed work organization, working relations and employment patterns, contributing to the increase of work-related stress.
For the workplace to be conducive for mental health, it is important for employers to educate themselves on mental health, to be sensitive to the mental needs of employees that may arise. There should be safe talk/spaces for mental health at the work place. Open conversations with employees should be encouraged with emphasis on the dangers of stigma associated with mental health.
Mr Odoki is a mental health advocate.

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