Is the workplace immune to mental disorders?

By Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, Chairman, Alliance for a Safe Community


KOTA KINABALU: Mental health issues at the workplace should be given due attention, as the productivity of the staff of any organisation depends on their mental health.

Employers must be aware that the neglect of mental health and psychosocial factors at the workplace is not only detrimental to the individual worker but also directly affects the productivity, efficiency, and output of any organisation.

Employee performance, frequent illness, absenteeism, accidents, and staff turnover are all affected by employees’ mental health status.

Issues related to mental health at the workplace can also have a direct impact on all stakeholders in the workplace, including the employers, customers, and the community in which the organisation is located.

No workplace is immune to mental disorders, and their impact in psychological, social, and economic terms is high. Mental health should no longer be ignored; on the contrary, it should be given adequate attention in relation to other business in any organisation.

Mental health problems, especially stress-related ones among Malaysians, are a matter of serious concern and need to be addressed urgently at the workplace so that problems like depression, mental illness, and psychiatric disorders can be avoided.

Urgent steps need to be taken to address mental health issues at workplaces, involving employers, employees, and the relevant authorities.

Employers should use Safety and Health Committees at the workplace to examine and identify the problems relating to the promotion of mental health care at workplaces and formulate a sustainable programme to address these problems.

Mental health education and promotion, which aim to address the rise of psychosocial problems in our society, are essential in view of our aspiration to achieve developed nation status, which obviously will exert tremendous pressure to deal with our daily responsibilities, which could lead to stressful predicaments.

Psychiatric disorders and other forms of mental illness are tragic reminders of another side of life, which must not be overlooked in our quest to become a fully industrialised nation.

The impact of mental illness on the family and society is enormous in terms of loss of productivity, legal problems, and economic costs. The direct costs of mental disorders are high, but the indirect costs are estimated to be much higher than the direct costs to society.

Mental disorders also impact the quality of life in communities, which has a direct bearing on society.

In previous years, mental health has been a topic of low priority for the government and the community as compared to other health problems. But increasingly, as reflected worldwide, mental health has gained more prominence.

In Malaysia, we need to do more for those who suffer from mental illness.

On the welfare services front, the government should include the mentally ill as disabled persons and bring them under the category of ‘orang kurang upaya’ or disabled persons, and they should be accorded opportunities in employment to help them return to the mainstream and not be a burden to society.

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