09 November, Mbabane: More than 300 textile workers in Siteki in the Lubombo region of Swaziland were sensitised on the importance of maintaining a state of good mental health especially at the workplace. This was marking the commemoration of the World Mental Health Day under the theme “Mental Health in the Workplace”. The Kingdom of Swaziland joins the rest of the world every year in commemorating this important day aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues across the globe and mobilising efforts in support of mental health.
The Honourable Minister of Health Senator Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Officer in Charge Dr Khosi Mthethwa, the Director of Health Services, Dr Vusi Magagula, the National Psychiatrist Dr Violet Mwanjali and her team of mental health nurses from the National Psychiatric Referral Hospital, among others visited one of the textile firms in Siteki. Addressing the workers, speakers who included the Minister of Health and the WHO Officer in Charge emphasised the importance of maintaining good mental health by avoiding and applying coping mechanisms to deal with stress at the workplace. Untreated mental disorders, in employees or their family members, result in diminished productivity at work, an increase in workplace accidents and high staff turnover, among other things. Good mental health enables people to realise their full potential, cope with normal stresses of life, work productively and contribute to their communities.
The Kingdom of Swaziland has a very vibrant textile industry which employs mainly middle aged women. However some of these workplaces have risks to mental health which include: 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 organisational objectives. A negative working environment, on the other hand, may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity. There is need for fostering psychosocially healthy work environment by identifying and addressing stress risk factors in the work place and facilitating access to care for those who need it. Preventative strategies and inclusion in the workplaces are also crucial in protecting mental health and in handling the causes and consequences of work-related stress, with both individual and collective efforts. All employers to make meaningful investment in mental health promotion, preventative and treatment programs in the workplace
The World Health Organization in Swaziland prioritises mental health. In line with the Global Plan of Action on Worker’s Health (2008-2017) and Mental Health Action Plan (2013-2020) supports the country in the implementation of strategies to promote good mental health in the workplace. These include: addressing social determinants of mental health, such as living standards and working conditions; activities for prevention and promotion of health and mental health, including activities to reduce stigmatisation and discrimination; and increasing access to evidence-based care through the National Psychiatric Referral Hospital, including access to occupational health services.
The organisation encourages the country to promote mental health in the workplace, and build broad coalitions to promote best practice, decrease negative attitudes and empower individuals to promote good mental health for all. The organisation also recognises that workplace wellbeing is key to ensuring a healthy, sustainable workforce which is essential for a healthier, more productive and prosperous nation.