BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
COMPANIES should craft employees’ wellness programmes to cater for mental health challenges that are affecting several workers, a seasoned medical doctor has said.
Speaking during a National Social Security Authority (Nssa) safety annual conference recently, prominent psychiatrist Sacrifice Chirisa said mental health challenges were worrying.
With the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic for the past two years, depression, anxiety and other mental issues have been on the rise.
The emergence of the epidemic has significantly altered people’s lives with movement restrictions, new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, among others.
Experts have noted that these factors, coupled with the anguish of losing loved ones to the pandemic and fear of contracting the virus will certainly lead to a significant rise in mental health problems.
Since workers spend most of their time at work, companies need to put in place measures to ensure workers are not weighed down by stress and depression.
Economic challenges have also caused stresses. Chirisa said Zimbabwe should prioritise workers’ safety.
He said: “There is no safety and no physical health when we are ignoring mental health because all the human decisions that lead to accepting decisions start with mental and psychological well-being.
“Unfortunately, mental health programmes are missing in most corporate wellness programmes. Why not focus on mental health?
“Employees spend most of their time at work and the work environment and everything that happens at work has a role in the mental wellbeing of that individual. So a healthy environment is key to maintaining a healthy, safe employee,” Chirisa added.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in four people are affected by mental health disorders every year.
Chirisa highlighted that employees’ mental health was negatively affecting companies.
“Mental health is actually costing employers directly and indirectly. We are talking about mental health; we are talking about substance abuse, depression, everything that affects the sociological makeup of individuals.
“All these things have a direct impact on mental health. If we ignore it we are losing money.
“We all want money and we want to save money but we can’t do it if we ignore mental health.
“My call today is that we need to start to focus on mental health because there is no safety without it. Your workers cannot be safe if they are depressed.
“They are not safe if they cannot concentrate because accidents will happen because of silly mistakes and lack of concentration resulting in disability,” he pointed out.
Workers, Chirisa said, must be put on medical insurance that covers mental health.
“There are ways to improve the mental health and wellness of employees. Firstly, to promote the wellness of the employee, do the wellness in all dimensions — physical, financial and social.
“Secondly, we have to ensure that our employees are on medical insurance that is good and adequate for mental health because most insurance policies are inadequate in covering mental health.
“Introduce mental health conversations to reduce the shame, the fear that accompanies mental health issues. It can be done online or in person,” he said.
Mental health issues have to be addressed and more resources are required for research on the current mental health trends in the midst of the pandemic to assess the intensity of the problem.