Observation of World Mental Health Day

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Dr N Heramani Singh

Introduction: The World Health Organization recognizes World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. The day provides an opportunity “for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide”. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is mental health in the workplace.

World Mental Health Day, hosted by the World Federation of Mental Health, is on 10 October each year. To help mark the occasion, we’re raising awareness of what can be done to ensure that people with mental health problems can live with dignity.

Moreover according to WHO findings, 10% of the employed populations have taken time off work for depression; An average of 36 workdays are lost per depression episode; 50% of people with depression are untreated; 94% Cognitive symptoms of depression, such as for instance difficulties in concentrating, making decisions and remembering, are present up to 94% of the time during an episode of depression, causing significant impairment in work function and productivity and 43% of mangers want better policies. People find it difficult to disclose that they have mental health difficulties in the workplace – yet nobody is immune from mental health difficulties.

Mental health in the workplace: Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems. Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems, and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health. There are many effective actions that organizations can take to promote mental health in the workplace; such actions may also benefit productivity.

Overview: Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability, with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Unemployment is a well-recognized risk factor for mental health problems, while returning to, or getting work is protective. A negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity. Workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.

This information sheet addresses mental health and disorders in the workplace. It also covers difficulties that may be created or exacerbated by work such as stress and burnout.
Work-related risk factors for health: There are many risk factors for mental health that may be present in the working environment. Most risks relate to interactions between type of work, the organizational and managerial environment, the skills and competencies of employees, and the support available for employees to carry out their work. For example, a person may have the skills to complete tasks, but they may have too few resources to do what is required, or there may be unsupportive managerial or organizational practices.
Risks to mental health include: Inadequate health and safety policies; Poor communication and management practices; Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work; Low levels of support for employees; Inflexible working hours; and Unclear tasks or organizational objectives.

Risks may also be related to job content, such as unsuitable tasks for the person’s competencies or a high and unrelenting workload. Some jobs may carry a higher personal risk than others (e.g. first responders and humanitarian workers), which can have an impact on mental health and be a cause of symptoms of mental disorders, or lead to harmful use of alcohol or psychoactive drugs. Risk may be increased in situations where there is a lack of team cohesion or social support.

Bullying and psychological harassment (also known as “mobbing”) are commonly reported causes of work-related stress by workers and present risks to the health of workers. They are associated with both psychological and physical problems. These health consequences can have costs for employers in terms of reduced productivity and increased staff turnover. They can also have a negative impact on family and social interactions.

Creating a healthy workplace: An important element of achieving a healthy workplace is the development of governmental legislation, strategies and policies as highlighted by recent European Union Compass work in this area. A healthy workplace can be described as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all employees.

A recent guide from the World Economic Forum suggests that interventions should take a 3-pronged approach:

Protect mental health by reducing work–related risk factors; Promote mental health by developing the positive aspects of work and the strengths of employees and Address mental health problems regardless of cause.

The guide highlights steps organizations can take to create a healthy workplace, including:
Awareness of the workplace environment and how it can be adapted to promote better mental health for different employees; Learning from the motivations of organizational leaders and employees who have taken action; Not reinventing wheels by being aware of what other companies who have taken action have done; Understanding the opportunities and needs of individual employees, in helping to develop better policies for workplace mental health and Awareness of sources of support and where people can find help.

Interventions and good practices that protect and promote mental health in the workplace include:
Implementation and enforcement of health and safety policies and practices, including identification of distress, harmful use of psychoactive substances and illness and providing resources to manage them; Informing staff that support is available; Involving employees in decision-making, conveying a feeling of control and participation; organizational practices that support a healthy work-life balance; Programmes for career development of employees and Recognizing and rewarding the contribution of employees.

Mental health interventions should be delivered as part of an integrated health and well-being strategy that covers prevention, early identification, support and rehabilitation. Occupational health services or professionals may support organizations in implementing these interventions where they are available, but even when they are not, a number of changes can be made that may protect and promote mental health. Key to success is involving stakeholders and staff at all levels when providing protection, promotion and support interventions and when monitoring their effectiveness.

Available cost-benefit research on strategies to address mental health points towards net benefits. For example, a recent WHO-led study estimated that for every USD $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of USD $4 in improved health and productivity.

Mental health problems can affect anyone, any day of the year, but 10 October is a great day to show your support for better mental health and start looking after your own well-being.

As the theme for World Mental Health Day for the year 2017 is “Workplace Wellbeing”, so whether you’re an individual looking to boost your own wellbeing or an employer seeking advice on supporting your staff, we’ve got a range of ways you can get involved.
Conclusion: During our adult lives, a large proportion of our time is spent at work. Our experience in the workplace is one of the factors determining our overall wellbeing. Employers and managers who put in place workplace initiatives to promote mental health and to support employees who have mental disorders see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity at work. A negative working environment, on the other hand, may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity.

Hence let us always try to create workplace well-being so that the observation of World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2017 will be very fruitful and meaningful for all.
(The writer is Professor & HOD Psychiatry, RIMS & President, Indian Psychiatric Society, Manipur State Branch)

Source: The Sangai Express

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