Depression and anxiety, the two most common mental health issues in the workplace will be given attention by the World Health Organization as it commemorated World Mental Health Day.

About 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability, followed by anxiety, which affects 260 million. More worrisome is that many people suffer from both mental health conditions.

Collectively, these two issues cost the global economy some 1 trillion dollars in lost productivity.

This year's them for World Mental Health day (October 10) focuses on mental health issues faced by workers to raise awareness.

Risks for negative work environment

The WHO recognizes that work is an "essential feature of most people's adult life, and that it provides personal, economic and social value aside from providing for a person's identity, as well as a source of social support.

As invaluable as work is to an individual, being in a negative work environment makes one prone to physical and mental health problems, that raises the risk of using harmful substances and alcohol, or missing work as well as lost productivity.

The workload, lack of participation, monotonous and unpleasant tasks, conflict, inequity, poor interpersonal relationship and working conditions are among the factors that put an individual at risk for a negative working experience, according to the United Nations health agency.

Risks vary with the kind of work performed. Some jobs, such as first responders to humanitarian crisis, carry a higher personal risk that can be exacerbated  the lack of team or social support. These jobs may have a higher risk of negative impact on mental health.

But risks vary with the job content. Some jobs, especially first responders to humanitarian crisis, carry a higher personal risk, which can be exacerbated by the lack of team or social support. Such jobs may have a higher risk of negative impact on mental health.

Depression and anxiety

Depression will become the second most important cause of disability by the year 2020. The agency noted that 5.8 percent of men and 9.5 percent of women will have a depressive episode within a 12-month period. It also affects big portion of those within the 15-44 age bracket.

Depression, a mood disorder, involves loss of interest or pleasure, reduced self-esteem, disturbed sleep and appetite, among others.

The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation cited that of the three percent of Filipinos who are depressed, only one third will seek help.

According to Health, child-care workers, food service workers, social workers, healthcare workers, artists, writers, teachers, administrative work staff, financial workers, and salespeople, among others, are some of those most at risk for depression.

Anxiety, meanwhile, can be normal and can even improve a person’s performance if at moderate level. It is common and affects some 260 million people worldwide.

These disorders include panic disorder, agoraphobia (cluster of phobias), social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Often, mental health issues occur together, leading to co-morbidity, so people with anxiety may also be depressed, while those with substance abuse problems could also have anxiety or depression, WHO warned. 

Happiest Index Report

These statistics notwithstanding, Filipinos have been labelled as one of the happiest workers in Asia, according to a recent JobStreet Survey.

The Philippines scored 6.25 in a scoring system of one to ten, with ten being the happiest score, according to CNN.

Other countries include Hong Kong with 5.54, Malaysia with 5.22, Thailand with 5.74, and Singapore with a 5.09 score.

“It’s actually a virtuous circle. When you have happy people, you have more productive people. And then the companies grow, and they want to invest more in their people,” JobStreet Country Manager Philip Gioca was quoted as saying.

The survey result emphasized that good colleague relationship is the most important factor that results in job satisfaction, followed by accessible work location and good company reputation.  

Job happiness, meanwhile, depends on what stage the worker is at. For fresh graduates starting out and junior executives, it’s having good working relationships, while those in managerial positions look at company reputation and development of other people as basis for happiness.

People in retail, banking and business processing outsource (BPO) posted the lowest satisfaction, the survey also noted.

Given all these data, however, local statistics indicate that the Philippines does struggle with mental health illness, of which numbers may be inaccurate because such cases tend to be under-reported due to stigma.

A National Statistics Office (NSO) study noted that there are 88 cases of mental health problems for every 100,000 in the population. These include schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder, and schizoaffective disorder.

Protecting the health, safety and well-being

“A healthy workplace can be described 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,” WHO pointed out.

The World Economic Forum suggested three wide approaches in uplifting or improving the mental well-being of workers. These include “reducing work-related risk factors, development of positive aspects of work and strengths of employees, and addressing mental health issues regardless of the cause.”

Specific interventions include assurance that support is available to workers who experience mental health problems, giving them a sense of work-life balance, attention to career development, and setting up a recognition/reward system for the contributions of the employees.

Comprehensive Mental Health Bill advancing

Meanwhile, the Philippines, one the few countries without a mental health law, is moving towards putting one in place.

House Bill No. 6452 or the Comprehensive Mental Health Act, wherein mental health services will be made readily available to the public, has passed the second reading.

The proposed law would provide for protection from forms of abuse and discrimination, access to information about their disorder and services available, and confidentiality, among others.

The HB’s Senate version passed the 3rd and final reading last May. MIMS 

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