Oluwatayo: Mental Health Issues Can Impair Performance at Work

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Martins Ifijeh

As part of efforts to create awareness on the consequences of mental health issues on Nigerians and the economy, a mental health expert and the Chief Executive Officer, The Retreat Healthcare, Dr. Olufemi Oluwatayo, has called on the citizens to avoid factors that cause mental health issues.

He said mental health in a workplace was one of the challenges affecting the productivity of a society, hence the need to tackle it.

Stating this in a message to mark this year’s Mental Health Day, the Consultant Psychiatrist, said while most Nigerians spend significant parts of their lifetime at work in order to add more meaning to their lives and improve their self esteem, the work itself and the environment where it takes place can have a negative impact on the people if not managed properly.

“Employees suffering from mental health issues are likely to have impaired work output. This is therefore in the interest of the employer to support them to recover as soon as possible and to provide a workplace that foster mental well-being.

“In Nigeria, there are no data on financial losses to businesses resulting from poor mental health of employees. Estimates from the UK indicate that up to £70 billion pounds is lost annually due to mental ill health and reduced productivity of employees with up to 20 per cent of the workforce taking on average, one day off annually because of stress and other mental health related issues.”

He said it was obvious that poor mental health of individual employees has significant repercussions for businesses including poor motivation, increased staff turnover, sickness, absence due to stress, burnout and exhaustion.

For employers of labour and organisations to provide enabling working environment for their employees and help them deal with mental health issues, the Psychiatrist said awareness represents the starting point, such that employers recognise that they have a responsibility to their employees, some of which are statutory.

“The workplace must be an environment that challenge, support and help develop a sense of purpose of the employees. A mentally healthy workplace is built on good basic line management relationships, clear human relations policies and engagement of staff in decision making.

“There should be a clear grievance process and ways of seeking redress when things go wrong. When employees have a mental disorder and it is disclosed, employers must keep the information confidential and the employee should be supported to return to work after recovery with reasonable adjustments made to their job if necessary and/or be allowed to return in a graded fashion or be placed in less demanding and more appropriate roles within the organisation. There should be access to stress management courses, occupational health services and to mental health specialists, preferably outsourced,” Oluwatayo stated.

On the employees’ part, he said they are under no obligation to disclose a mental disorder to their employers except on some positions that for instance involve having contacts with vulnerable people.

He said, however, it would be impossible for the employers to provide support if nothing is disclosed. “This is obviously a very sensitive issue in our society with potential adverse outcomes including loss of job and inappropriate use of the disclosed information. This is further compounded by the general culture of silence in our society when it comes to talking about mental health issues or how it impacts us.”

World Mental Health Day is commemorated every year on October 10. The Retreat, Nigeria’s first privately-owned mental health facility, joined health stakeholders in marking the day through awareness programmes.