‘I was slow and sleepy most of the time and this affected my effectiveness at work. It led to me being demoted at work. Although I received the same salary, I was frustrated knowing that I could do much more than what was I assigned to me.” This was part of Mr. Amakali’s testimony has he shared his journey of living with bipolar at a public lecture as part of the World Mental Health Day. He was diagnosed with bipolar since 1998 after his graduation from High School. After spending a year in the Mental Health Unit, Mr. Amakali was fortunate to work at a local bank. However his fate changed as he defaulted on his treatment frequently and the effect of the medication affected his productivity at work.
In a speech read on his behalf, Dr Sagoe-Moses said’ Employers and managers who put in place workplace initiatives to promote mental health and to support employees who have mental disorders see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity at work and the financial health of their organizations. A negative working environment, on the other hand, can lead to physical and mental health problems among employees, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity.
Work is an essential feature of most people’s adult life, and has personal, economic and social value. Work substantially contributes to a person’s identity; it provides income for an individual and his or her family, and can make a person feel that he or she is playing a useful role in society. It is also an important source of social support.
A mental health policy for the workplace helps to define the vision for improving the mental health of the workforce and to establish a model for action. When well formulated, such a policy will also identify and facilitate the agreements needed among the different stakeholders in the workplace. Without policy direction, lack of coordination and fragmentation will reduce the impact of any workplace mental health strategy.
Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability, with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
Mr. Amakali later resigned from his work following the untimely death of his mother. He relapsed and stayed in isolation for 3 years avoiding friends and family, however with support from close relatives he resumed his treatment and was offered a job with a different bank. He expressed his appreciation to his employer who created a friendly environment. He now has adapted well in the workplace and community and receives support from colleagues, family and community.
Dr Sagoe-Moses said that creating a healthy workplace includes raising awareness on mental health, reducing the likelihood of employees who are at risk from developing mental health problems, making treatment available for employees with mental health problem, changing the organisation of work to improve the employees’ mental health and to reintegrate employees with mental disorders in the workplace.
The Public Lecture was organized in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Services, WHO and the University of Namibia. It was attended by more than 200 professionals from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ministry of Correctional Services, Ministry of Defense, University of Namibia, Centre for Disease Control, WHO, Bel Esprit Wellness Centre, Commercial Banks and other private companies.
In addition to the public lecture, WHO with UN Cares held an educational session on mental health in the workplace with all UN staff in Namibia. The session was facilitated by two members of the Mental Health Unit from the Ministry of Health and Social Services. The presentation was well appreciated and resulted in additional counselling sessions with some staff members.