How Companies Are Learning to Talk About Mental Health
Findings from the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey show that 2.3% of Malaysian adults are experiencing depression. It may seem like a small percentage, but when put to scale, is actually equivalent to about half a million adults in Malaysia. This, coupled with the estimates for anxiety and extreme stress accounts for 1 in 4 Malaysian adults being affected by a mental health condition.*
*Please note the figures shared are pre-pandemic official survey results. The number of Malaysian adults experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress is now expected to be significantly higher.
According to the WHO, depression is expected to be the largest contributor to disease burden by 2030.
Yet many people still find it difficult to open up about any mental health problems due to the existing stigma surrounding mental health. It is as though people would rather suffer in silence than risk the possibility of being fired or regarded as incompetent or unwell.
Corporate management teams must work toward shifting their employees’ outlook on mental health, if for no other reason than because the mental wellbeing of their employees impacts business. According to the WHO, two of the most common mental health conditions, depression, and anxiety cost the global economy as much as US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
Fortunately, some companies have already taken steps in the right direction.
Some companies are stepping up
As part of their standard Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), some employees are provided with e-learning materials, resources to help them learn how to address personal problems, and are also taught practical tools to help them reach out to a co-worker who they suspect might not be feeling okay.
Following the outbreak of Covid-19, Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) launched their own EAP to help their employees cope with the challenges of being in lockdown and working from home. Employees are provided with tips to adapt to the new normal, as well as access to financial counselling and financial literacy courses to empower any lifestyle transitions. The EAP was later enhanced with MHeart, a psychological wellbeing digital platform by Naluri, in order to promote holistic health care.
How mental health affects business
A survey by AIA Vitality reports that organisations lose a total of 73.3 days per employee per year due to absence and presenteeism, costing each employer, on average, RM1.46 million per month. In 2018, mental health conditions in the workplace were estimated to have cost the Malaysian economy RM14.46 billion.
Leaving the mental health of employees unchecked can lead to disastrous effects, not only for the employees, but also the company’s wellbeing. When employees are burdened by stress without a proper way to deal with it, the impact will transfer to the quality of their work, resulting in wasted time and resources required to make up for the slack.
Investing in employee well-being is an investment that pays off. A recent WHO-led study estimated that for every US$ 1 put into scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US$ 4 in improved health and productivity. It’s evident that happy and cared for employees will result in a more productive and loyal workforce.
How to support your employees
Start by destigmatising conversations around mental health in the workplace. Here are a few ways to get started:
Normalise mental health days off
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Much like the way one takes a sick day off due to a cold or flu, encourage your employees to take days off from work when they are mentally overwhelmed or overly stressed.
Introduce Employee Assistance Programs
If your company does not already have EAPs in place, consider how a comprehensive program can help employees address areas of concern in their lives, be it financial literacy, mental health, or managing stress.
Consider providing employees with resources that they can refer to, such as educational modules about diet, exercise, stress management, and resilience, as well as customised professional health coaching by experts.
Naluri’s corporate wellness programs are proven to improve the health and well-being of your team, decrease your company’s health-related costs and expenditures, and improve productivity – ultimately impacting your bottom line positively, in as little as 6 months.
Show support from the top down
Encourage managers to open up about their own mental health and initiate honest and open conversations with their teammates. Observing superiors talk about mental health candidly gives license to employees to talk about their own mental health too.
Turn the workplace into a safe space
Language is important. Teach employees to avoid using derogatory terms that reference mental health or even misusing mental health terms such as OCD and bipolar. Not only does the use of these words send the wrong message, but they also alienate people who are actually affected by mental health conditions. Tactfully correcting someone in public or private will give license for others to do the same.
Also, consider training your employees in mental health first aid. This will allow them to help and support their coworkers who are struggling mentally and are in need of a reassuring support system.
For more on how to transform your workplace into a healthier work environment, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Writen by:
- Asma' Jailani