Employers can help reduce depression – Odafen

  • Says one in five persons suffers from mental problem in Nigeria

Employers have great roles to play to assist in the reduction of mental problems in Nigeria, the President, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN)  Dr Frank Odafen, has said.

Odafen, who said one in five Nigerians suffers from one form of mental problem or the other noted that if employers are conscious of the trend and consequently provide friendly work environment for their employees and make their welfare a priority, the development will drastically decline.

Odafen told journalists in Abuja on Tuesday at a media briefing to commemorate this year World Mental Health Day that common problems in the work place range from Depression to anxiety, stress and complicated mental distress.

Speaking on the theme for 2017 commemoration, “Mental Health in Work Place”, the member of World Organization of Family Doctors, said while many employers are developing policies to support a healthy workforce, there is no shared vision for mental health in the work place, adding that it is apt to raise issues that define best practices in promoting mental health in the work place as a global development priority due to the critical impact of mental health on economic development and well-being.

He particularly frowned at unwholesome public attitude towards persons with mental challenges. “People with mental illness are highly stigmatized. Others feel such people should not be employed or  are uncomfortable working with them. Organizations should play a key role in de-stigmatization advocacy campaigns,” he said.

Odafen disclosed that the annual global cost of mental health problems are estimated at 2.5 trillion US dollars, even as he described a mentally healthy workplace as one that supports the mental health of individuals by recognizing risk factors and taking appropriate actions to minimize their potential negative impact on workers.

He explained that it is important to recognize that mental health problems usually stem from both work-related and non-work-related issues.

“So, employers owe it a duty to be responsible and to intervene and support their staff in dealing with mental health issues,” he said.

According to him, mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. The hallmarks of mental health disorder, he stressed, are the inability to participate to the full extent in day to day life due to the presence of symptoms that disrupt functionality across different life areas such as relationships and managing work.

He averred that over 300 million people suffer from depression and anxiety worldwide, leading to lost productivity. “Unemployment is a risk factor for mental health problem which employment is protective. Negative working environment leads to both physical and mental health problems,” he said.

Besides, he emphasized that harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems which can have adverse impact on mental health. “There are many actions that organizations can take to promote mental health in the work place so as to enhance productivity,” he stated.

Work places that promote mental health are more likely to reduce absenteeism and increase productivity with the attendant economic benefits.

While identifying work-related risk factors for mental health, the medical practitioner listed inadequate health and safety policies; poor communication and management practices; limited participation in decision making or low control over one’s area of work.

Others are low level of support for employees; inflexible working hours; unclear task or organizations objectives.

“Bullying and psychological harassment are commonly reported causes of work-related stress; they’re associated with both psychological and physical problems. These cost employers reduced productivity and increased staff turnover. They can also have negative impact on family and social interactions,” he said.

He called for legislation that protects mental health by reducing work-related risk factor; promote mental health by developing both positive aspect of work and strength of employees.

He also informed that long term unemployment is detrimental to mental health, while according to him, practices that may enhance functionality will include flexible working hours, job redesign, addressing negative work place dynamics, and supportive, confidential communication  with management. Others, he listed, include improving access to evidence-based treatment and educating workforce about mental health.

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