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Stemming Incidence Of Mental Illness In Workplace



ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH, in this report writes on how employers of labour and employees can help stem the high incidence of mental illness at the workplace

Survey has revealed that it is estimated that common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse-related disorders, will disable more people than complications arising from AIDS, heart disease, accidents, and wars combined!

The survey said: “In Nigeria, an estimated 20 per cent to 30 per cent of our population are believed to suffer from mental disorders. This is a very significant number considering Nigeria has an estimated population of over 200 million.”

Worst still, mental health disorders is beginning to flourish at the workplace, according to mental health experts who spoke with LEADERSHIP at the 2019 Healthcare Nigeria Conference, with the theme: “Healthcare In Nigeria: Transformative Solutions’.

According to them, mental health disorder has gone beyond seeing people talking to themselves or living on the street, as a lot of Nigerians suffering from the illness are seen even at the workplace.

According to a consultant psychiatrist, Dr. Yewande Oshodi, the reason for that is not far-fetched due to the rapid growth of globalisation, and the need for staff to meet up with the demands of their employers.

Oshodi said some of the signs of mental health disorder are when an employee always take excuse from work; not interested in activities once loved; always wanting to be alone; frequent mistakes; always sad, more time spent on tasks; impaired social functioning, burnout, anger, resentment, low morale and other detrimental factors.

“If left untreated, she said mental health disorder can lead to chronic heart diseases and even cancer. She said, “A lot of studies have revealed that by 2020, depression, which is one of the major causes of mental health disorder will rank only 2nd to heart diseases, hence the need to pay attention,” she stressed.

To avert all these, she advised employers to watch out for employees who have displayed some of the signs listed above and rather than sack them,  should help them seek  medical help.

To her, “Health is something we are concern about, and when we think about health, it is not just the absence of disease, it is a state of mental, physical and social well-being, so we must be thinking in an holistic and comprehensive health.

“We cannot provide health in section and say all we will do is physical health, because as long as we keep on ignoring mental health, it will keep us unburdening us and we can see the incidence of mental illness arising and they will continue to rise if you and I do not take action.”

Speaking further, she said: “When we are mentally healthy, we can function in our workplace. I hereby appeal to employers and colleagues to watch out for people in their workplace that are always sad for a long time like persistent low mood; lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, lack of concentration and feeling weak all the time and if all these persist for a duration of time.

“Any declaration like I just want to die, I can’t take it anymore, must be taken seriously. Such statement should not be ignore, but rather, we should encourage such person to seek for help from mental health expert.”

The director of Advocacy and Communications at the PharmAccess Foundation in Nigeria, Dr. Olamide Okulaja said: “We have seen people who will park their cars and jump into the lagoon; we have heard of people committing suicide by taking sniper.

“A lot of people don’t think about mental health disorder because of the stigma and the government and private sector  are not looking into that direction, they are mostly concentrating on diseases like HIV, malaria and Tuberculosis.”

Okulaja, however, urged government and the private sector to turn their attention to mental health issues, as it can help boost productivity at the workplace which, in return, boost the GDP of the economy.

Mental Health physician and psychotherapist, Maymunah Kadiri, said, recent statistics in Nigeria revealed that one out of every five Nigerians has mental health disorder , but the sad part of it is that most Nigerians think people who suffer from the disorder are those on the streets.

According to her, the people on the streets represent just one to two per cent of mental health cases in the country, adding that, ‘98 per cent of mental disorder comes from us, not those on the street.’

Studies, according to Kadiri, have indicated that the workplace stress is the major trigger of mental health disorder, noting that, it is a significant factor that may affect organisational performance and a whole lot of people are having high blood pressure arising from stress at the workplace.

Kadiri listed what can trigger stress at the workplace as role conflict, a situation whereby uncertainty is expressed in different ways, including lack of performance feedback, uncertainty about desirable behaviour (role ambiguity), and uncertainty about the future (job insecurity).

Others, according to her, are; “Heavy workload, long work hours (shift working, inflexible work schedules, unpredictable hours, long or unsocial hours), inadequate training, poor time management and making career decision.

“Task design which include several aspects like low value of work, low use of skills, lack of task variety and repetitiveness in work, lack of opportunity to learn, high attention demands, conflicting demands and insufficient resources.”

But how do we mitigate stress not just at home but also in the work place?

Speaking on how to mitigate stress at the workplace, Kadiri said: “Employers should organise walking meetings rather than meetings in the boardroom, taking regular breaks and booking holiday will not only put you in a better frame of mind, it will also show your employees that it’s okay to take some time out.”

“Introduce workplace wellness scheme as exercise and a healthy lifestyle is extremely important when it comes to combating workplace related stress. Employee wellness schemes, such as; paying for a portion of employees gym memberships or running group-wide healthy eating challenges, is a good way to help employees unwind and feel better about themselves,” she pointed out.




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