by Dr Arien Van Der Merwe

Positive thinking

Mental health is a major concern in the workplace

Workplace wellness should address mental health.
Mental health affects many

Positive Activity Interventions (PAIs) teach employees various ways to increase their positive thinking and how to adopt positive behaviour.

Depression affects more than 100 million people worldwide and in 2000, was the second leading cause of disability among individuals aged 15 to 44. The World Health Organization projects that by 2020 depression will be second only to ischemic heart disease as the leading cause of disability for all ages and both genders. 

Depression has a high rate in the United States (approximately 16.3 million adults) and the United Kingdom (depression is the third most common reason for a primary care consultation).

Worldwide, about 850 000 lives are lost each year due to suicide, and suicide rates remain high in many geographic regions (for example Eastern Europe, South Korea, Japan, Finland, and Belgium) and demographic groups (for example teenagers, the elderly and chronically ill). 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found one in five workers has a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. These conditions increasingly affect productivity in the workplace as many struggle to cope. People with mental illness are often off sick from work, and between 30-50 % of all new disability benefit claims in OECD nations are now due to poor mental health. 

Increasing job insecurity and pressure in today's workplace, will lead to an increase in mental health problems in the coming years. The percentage of workers exposed to work-related stress, or job strain, increased dramatically in the past decade. 

The OECDs report, titled, "Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health at Work", found that most people with a mental disorder were working, with employment rates of 55-70%. This is about 10-15% lower than for people without a disorder. However, people with mental illness were two to three times more likely to be unemployed than people with no mental health problems. This gap represents a major loss in productivity and economically. 

The OECD said most common mental disorders could get better, and the employment chances could be improved, with adequate management. Health systems in most countries, however, were narrowly focused on treating people with severe disorders such as schizophrenia, who accounted for only a quarter of all mental diseases. About 50% of people with severe mental disorders and more than 70% of those with moderate illness currently get no treatment at all. 

Integrative mental health practices, based on helping employees develop stress resilience, should form an essential part of workplace wellness interventions, as a tool of education, information, preventative care, management and knowledge dissemination.

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This edition

Issue 16


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