Let’s make mental and behavioural wellness at the workplace a priority

Mental health

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May is the Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a time to raise awareness on mental or behavioral health issues and help reduce the stigma that so many experience. It is estimated that about one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing, and affects how we think, feel and act. Circumstances at home, stress at the workplace, financial pressures and societal demands can impact any person’s mental stability.

Recent evidence indicates that non-communicable diseases, including mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety, are directly linked to reduced business efficiency and increased absenteeism.

Depression and anxiety

The World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that mental illnesses affect employees’ performance and productivity.

Recent trends have shown that mental health challenges are increasingly manifesting in younger people, especially in Africa, where where the people greatly outnumber the available opportunities.

Work is a major part of life. It is where we spend much of our time, where we get our income and often where we make our friends and social connections. Therefore, building and sustaining a corporate culture that promotes mental health and growth is important, not just from an ethical but also from an economic perspective.

Organisations should treat mental health as a priority, complete with accountability mechanisms such as regular pulse surveys and follow-up actions. Leaders, managers and all employees should be trained on how to navigate mental wellbeing at work, have candid conversations and create an enabling environment for a healthier, happier workforce.

Ms Heho is the People & Organisation Head – Novartis East Africa Cluster

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