The saying that a healthy mind is a wealthy mind was brought to the fore at the 6th edition of the annual Health Week of the University of Lagos which took place recently.
A senior lecturer and consultant psychiatrist, College of Medicine, University of Lagos and guest speaker at the event, Dr Adebayo Erinfolami informed that Mental illness is a health issue which can significantly influence how people feel, think and behave – in areas like mood disorders, depression or bipolar disorder.
“Anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, psychotic disorders and schizophrenia are visible symptoms which deprive mental health of its positive sense of well-being.
Individual resources including self-esteem, optimism, and sense of mastery and coherence and the ability to initiate, develop and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships and the ability to cope with adversity (resilience), are all inclusive.”
The psychiatrist explained that the beneficial effect of work on people’s lives include money and material well-being, social identity and status, structure and purpose, sense of personal achievement, social contacts and support.
“Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems. Harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems, and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health”, he said.
Erinfolami noted that there are many effective actions that organizations can take to promote mental health in the workplace and such actions may also benefit productivity.
He disclosed that one out of five Nigerians has a mental health problem. 64 million Nigerians suffer from one mental illness or the other.
Depression is the second top contributor to the global burden of disease and 8-12 percent of people misuse alcohol and drugs.
On the effect of mental illness on workplace, he said it is the second leading cause of “workplace absenteeism”, lost productivity, and direct treatment costs, adding that 24 percent of all suicide deaths are from ages 18-24 while up to half of all patients seen every day by primary care providers, suffer from mental illness – most often depression.
Risks factors to mental health include inadequate health and safety policies, poor communication and management practices, limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work as well as low levels of support for employees associated with inflexible working hours and unclear tasks or organizational objectives.
Effect of stress on work include Emotional tearfulness/irritation, Absenteeism, Presenteeism, Poor time keeping, Inability to deal with usual workload, High staff turnover/job dissatisfaction, Increased forgetfulness, accidents and mistakes and Reduced productivity, Indecisiveness or rash decision making.
The medical practitioner highlighted ways to help people overcome mental illness such as self direction, control and responsible relationships, finding meaning and purpose, treatment and supports activity.
He however warned employers to avoid causing mental illness for their employees saying “Your behaviour towards employees can prevent or cause stress.
Your influence may mean employees can be protected from, or exposed to stressful working conditions. By working closely with your team, you are well positioned to identify stress in others at an early stage.
“If one of your employees suffers from stress, you, as their manager, are likely to be involved in the solution. Increasingly, managers are responsible for the uptake and roll-out of risk assessments for work stress within their team/department.”
He described a healthy workplace as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all employees.
However, the medic warned managers further to prevent mental health issues by reducing work–related risk factors, promote mental health by developing the positive aspects of work and the strengths of employees and address mental health problems regardless of cause.
On how to promote good mental health in the workplace, he suggested implementation and enforcement of health and safety policies and practices, informing staff that support is available, involving employees in decision-making and recognizing and rewarding the contribution of employees.
In her own submission on how to create a healthy workplace, an assistant Director, Medical Social Services Department, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Ms Titilayo Tade, suggested that employers should carry out a regular stress risk assessment, inform employees of the findings and involve them in solutions;
help employees to identify and cope with sources of stress both inside and outside work, ensure staff have opportunities to feedback – how they are feeling and being positive about reasonable adjustments.
She spoke on the topic, “Mental Health in the Workplace: A Social Worker’s Perspective” -where she stressed that social challenges in managing mental illness include cultural and religious beliefs about mental illness, poor social support, funding, abandonment and culture of silence among others.