According to the World Health Organization, the numbers of people suffering from mental illnesses alone do not measure the suffering, the isolation, the lost productivity, the brake on developing human potential and the brake on development in general for countries. Mental health problems such as depression, burnout, substance use disorders or dementia can affect large parts of a country’s population. While this common phenomenon drains the economy through absenteeism, and healthcare costs, much stigma and taboo surround this group of illnesses, making the uptake of solutions at the business and government level slow and difficult. The Global Agenda Council on Mental Health works to put mental illness on the global health and development agendas. It also seeks to de-stigmatize the current understanding of mental illness by exploring intellectual and business ventures with significant impact on the management and treatment of mental illnesses, while making the economic arguments for investing in mental health.
Mental health problems affect many employees, but due to the stigma linked to these, employees tend to be reluctant to seek treatment. Many questions have been raised as to the responsibility of the employer to help reduce the stigma related to Mental Health disorders. An increasing amount of businesses advocate that investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good business. It can lower total medical costs, increase productivity, decrease the number of sick days and disability costs.
The work of the Global Agenda Council on Mental Health over the past two years has focused on this approach and is launching* a website highlighting seven actions which can lead to creating a mentally healthy organisation.
This website is aimed at helping individuals – no matter where they sit in an organization – to develop and build the case for tackling mental illness in the workplace. It focuses on a variety of industries (banking, telecommunications, law, mining) based in the developed world; however the council trusts that these examples are transferable and may be used in other industries within emerging markets and the informal sector.
This guide takes a positive angle and highlights the following seven actions towards a mentally healthy organisation:
This first section focuses on better understanding the benefits of a mentally healthy work environment, the landscape – from stress to mental illness; and how to intervene to create a healthy workplace.
Typically there are several motivations working in combination for implementing workplace policies and practices that support the mental health and well-being of an organization’s employees. They include:
· the intrinsic importance of protecting the mental health and wellbeing of employees;
· a conscious belief that it is the right thing to do;
· benefits in employee engagement and reputation;
· managing costs and liabilities.
Companies and organisations world wide are already putting mental health policies into place. Examples from a variety of industries based in the developing world are captured here. These examples act as a base/point of reference which can be adapted to emerging markets, other business and informal sectors
Every organisation is different, and will require a unique set of policies to best deal with the needs of its employees. It's therefore important to identify what these needs are, and how a workplace mental health programme could begin to address these.
Sections five and six propose a range of online tools available for employees and employers.
7) Get started! We hope that the information provided in this guide helps you to take action to improve the mental health of your organisation.
*The website launched at the jointly organised World Health Organisation and World Bank Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Priority event in Washington DC, 13-14th April 2016.