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Employers must become partners, advocates

The trinidad Guardian / Under-treatment of mental disorders in the population is mainly due to two issues related to under-reporting. First, people are unaware of the common, more prevalent mental disorders which impact on more of the population and, second, where people are aware they are unwilling to disclose.

Conversely, the increased statistics that we see in the world today about mental ill health may not necessarily be because of more cases of illness but it may well be because of growing public awareness.

Education works to gradually reduce stigma and discrimination and consequently more people are becoming more comfortable with disclosure and more cases are being identified.

The increase prevalence of mental disorders in the workplace is a direct relation to the increase in population ill health or reporting. Despite that fact, too often, employers and companies are not among the real partners or advocates for mental healthcare.

The UK Mental Health Foundation says, “Working conditions and environment can have a huge impact on mental health and, equally, someone’s mental health can have a significant impact to perform well in their job.”

MHF says in the UK:-

? 1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace (14.7 per cent). ? Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed man (19.8 per cent vs 10.9 per cent). ? Evidence suggests that 12.7 per cent of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions. ( www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-mental-healt… ) And in the US, a 2014 report says, “Indirect cost of untreated mental health disorders results in US$79 billion annual loss to business due to loss of productivity (presenteeism) and absenteeism (US Surgeon General Report 1999).

For World Mental Health Day, Fortune, writing in support of the theme, Mental Health in the Workplace, wrote, “Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, and 260 million suffer from anxiety disorders-many of whom live with both conditions. A study by the World Health Organisation found that such disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion in lost productivity (presenteeism) each year.”

Some statistics on how mental health issues affect Americans, according to Fortune: ? 1 in 5 (or 43.8 million) adults experience mental illness each year. ? 1 in 25 (or 10 million) adults experience a serious mental illness. ? 1 in 100 (or 2.4 million) live with schizophrenia. ? 2.6 per cent (or 6.1 million) of Americans have bipolar disorder. ? 6.9 per cent (or 16 million) suffer from severe depression. ? 18.1 per cent (or 42 million) live with an anxiety disorder. ? 90 per cent of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness.

And yet:

? Only 41 per cent of adults with a mental health condition received help and less than 50 per cent of children 8-15 received mental health services. ? Only 36.9 per cent of those suffering from anxiety receive treatment. ? Less than 20 per cent of Americans with moderate depressive symptoms sought help from a medical professional. ? And 4 per cent of young adults with self-reported mental health needs forego care. (fortune.com/2017/10/10/world-mental-health-day-2017-workplace-depression-anxiety/)

These statistics overflow into workplace health and employers and organisations should consider proven paths to prevention of mental ill health at work:

? Better mental health support in the workplace. ? Introducing a workplace intervention in the form of an employee screening and care management for those living with (or at risk of) depression and other common disorders. ? Promoting well-being at work through personalised information and advice, a risk-assessment questionnaire, seminars, workshops and web-based materials.

Increasing health promotion and employees’ assistance in the workplace are considered effective ways to counter what is traditionally the high rates of under-treatment and under-reporting of common mental disorders.

Considering the high risks among the working-age population, the key to success in improving workplace health must be employers’ advocacy, greater staff and stakeholders’ involvement at all levels in the provision of protection, promotion, and support interventions in the workplace.

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Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communication and media practitioner. She holds an MA in Mass Communications and has completed the Masters in Public Health (MPH) from The UWI. Write to: [email protected]

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