Today, 10th of October is recognised globally as World Mental Health Day. It is a day set aside by the World Health Organisation to aid in creating awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of better mental health. This year’s theme is mental health in the workplace, an issue that affects every adult, whether entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs. This is because a large proportion of our time daily 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.
Depression and anxiety disorders are common mental disorders that have an impact on our ability to work, and to work productively. Statistically, more than 300 million people globally suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability. More than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Many of these people live with both. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
There are no exact figures for those who suffer from anxiety, depression, or any other kind of mental illness in the workplace, but the figures will likely be more alarming that we can imagine as a huge number of people who go through different forms of mental illness either don’t recognise that they are going through it or are too ashamed to speak up about it for fear of discrimination and/or stigmatisation.
Some risks to mental health in the workplace are 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. But a lot of these risks can be adver by creating a healthy workplace through implementing strategies and policies that allow workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety, and well-being of all employees.
Organizations have a responsibility to support individuals with mental disorders in either continuing or returning to work. In particular, flexible hours, job-redesign, addressing negative workplace dynamics, and supportive and confidential communication with management can help people with mental disorders continue to or return to work. Access to evidence-based treatments has been shown to be beneficial for depression and other mental disorders. Because of the stigma associated with mental disorders, employers need to ensure that individuals feel supported and able to ask for support in continuing with or returning to work and are provided with the necessary resources to do their job.