The World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labor Organisation (ILO) issued a joint briefing on September 28th, 2022, to outline practical strategies to support those suffering from mental health concerns in the workplace in the Mental Health at Work Policy brief.
12 billion workdays lost annually
In 2019, one billion people in the working population suffered from mental health conditions, estimated at 15% of the working population, and disturbingly equated to 12 billion workdays lost annually due to mental health issues, which is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity. COVID-19 is estimated to have increased anxiety and depression by 25%.
Mental Health at work in numbers
Recently, MyMindNews reported on the WHO’s World Mental Health Report, published in June 2022. This report urged reform and focused on an action plan to help support the transformation of mental health services at the country, government, local and individual levels.
The report also pointed out that in 2020, the average spending of health budgets on mental health was just 2%, with lower-middle-income countries investing less than 1%.
There is no doubt that both governments and employers will have been underprepared for the impact of COVID-19. The need for employees to work in a safe and healthy environment is paramount to an individual’s mental health.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, stated that,
“The wellbeing of the individual is reason enough to act, but poor mental health can also have a debilitating impact on a person’s performance and productivity. These new guidelines can help prevent negative work situations and cultures and offer much-needed mental health protection and support for working people.”
The Mental Health at Work policy brief
The WHO and ILO are urging action to prevent work-related mental health conditions, protect and promote mental health at work, and support workers with mental health conditions. Everyone must take responsibility for the part they play. This includes governments, employers, worker’s unions, managers, and stakeholders.
Three recommendations for future focus
There are three evidence-based interventions to support the policies and aims set out in the report –
Recommendation 1: All managers to undertake mental health training.
Essentially, there are six elements that a manager needs to train to be competent in mental health. These include understanding the psychosocial risk associated with mental health in their workplace and recognizing when employees are experiencing emotional stress. Active listening and open communication promote an inclusive work culture that supports their employee. To be a role model, advocate mental health, and ensure all employees have access to support.
Recommendation 2: Training for all workers in mental health literacy and awareness
All workers must undertake training to improve their understanding of mental health and wellbeing in the work environment. This will help encourage employees to seek help and reduce the stigma attached to mental health.
Recommendation 3: Individual interventions
Individual interventions will help build stress management skills to prevent and reduce mental health conditions. Such inventions will include digital technologies and self-help tools.
In conclusion, this Policy Brief is a refreshing read in its approach and substance. Undoubtedly, there is an inherent link between mental health and work. This Policy Brief offers very practical ways for us all to play our part in reducing the instances of mental health risk in the workplace.
The manager’s role in understanding mental health, modeling, and creating a healthy working environment should never be underestimated, and MyMindNews urges all employers, both large and small, to take time to read it and work towards 100% implementation. Currently, it is too expensive for any company to ignore.