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WHO Cites Effects of Negative Working Environments on Mental Health

WHO Cites Effects of Negative Working Environments on Mental Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that having unfavorable work environments could lead to physical and mental health problems.

“There are many risk factors for mental health that may be present in the working environment. Most risks relate to interactions between type of work, the organizational and managerial environment, the skills and competencies of employees, and the support available for employees to carry out their work,” the WHO said in its website.

It cited that during adulthood, when a lot of time is spent at work, the experience in the workplace is one of the factors that determine a person’s overall well-being.

A negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism, and lost productivity, the WHO said.

“Depression and anxiety disorders are common mental disorders that have an impact on our ability to work, and to work productively,” it added.

The WHO identified bullying and psychological harassment as commonly reported causes of work-related stress by workers that also present risks to their health.

Other risks to mental health at work are inadequate health and safety policies; poor communication and management practices; limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work; low levels of support for employees; inflexible working hours; and unclear tasks or organizational objectives.

“Risk may be increased in situations where there is a lack of team cohesion or social support,” WHO added.

It estimated that globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability, while more than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders, with many living with both.

Noting that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy USD1 trillion each year in lost productivity, the WHO urged member states to adopt policies promoting a healthy workplace, where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety, and well-being of all employees.

“Employers and managers who put in place workplace initiatives to promote mental health support employees who have mental disorders, see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity at work,” WHO said.

Other interventions and good practices that protect and promote mental health in the workplace are the implementation of health and safety policies and practices, including identification of distress, harmful use of psychoactive substances and illness and providing resources to manage them; informing staff that support is available; involving employees in decision-making, conveying a feeling of control and participation; organizational practices that support a healthy work-life balance; programs for career development of employees; and recognizing and rewarding the contribution of employees.

“Employers need to ensure that individuals feel supported and are able to ask for support in continuing with or returning to work and are provided with the necessary resources to do their job,” it added.

Mental health in the workplace is the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, which is observed every Oct. 10 to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts in support of better mental health.

Early this week, the House of Representatives approved on second reading a proposal seeking to establish a national mental health policy to enhance the delivery of mental health services in the country.

House Bill No. 6452 or the “Comprehensive Mental Health Act of 2017” seeks to integrate mental health care in the general health delivery system, especially the programs of the Department of Health and the Department of the Interior and Local Government for mentally disabled persons. (WHO)