PETALING JAYA: Mental health issues range from worries we all experience as part of everyday life to serious long-term conditions that may drive the affected individuals to commit suicide. In the workplace setting, mental health status affects employee performance, may increase rates of illness, cause absenteeism, accidents and increase staff turnover.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 1 in 4 people are affected by mental disorder at some point in their lives. Depression alone accounts for 4.3% of the global burden of disease and is among the largest single cause of disability worldwide. The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) conducted by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2015 revealed that the prevalence of mental health problems among those 16 years and above is 29.2%. 1 in 3 Malaysians have mental health issues, with highest prevalence among those aged 16-19 years as well as those from low income families. The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 indicated that 424,000 children were found to have mental health problems in Malaysia. 42.9% Peers problem, 15.9% Conduct problem, 8.3% Emotional problem and 2.3% Hyperactive problem contributed to mental health issues in Malaysia.
MEF President Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman PJN JP said “issue of mental health at the workplace has become alarming and need to be addressed urgently. The effect of poor management of mental health may trigger suicides among the employees. Based on records, Malaysia recorded a total of 1,142 suicides in 2021. Over the years, the number of suicides has gone up and the workplace need to respond to this phenomenon. If not, employers may lose productive employees not just loosing employees to suicide but it may influence the emotions and productivity of the entire workforce. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, if an individual attempts suicide, instead of being given mental health support and care, he or she can be jailed or fined or both. Even though there are initiatives to decriminalize attempted suicide, it may take years before it becomes a reality.”
“There is therefore an urgent need for greater collaboration between the employees/trade unions, government and employers to address mental health issues at the workplace”
In responding to this phenomenon, in the past, MEF has assisted the Ministry of health in dissemination information on mental health. For the benefits of its members, MEF in collaboration the Socioeconomic burden of depression committee, University of Malaya held 2 Workshops on “Behaviour and Mental Health in Organization. The workshop objectives were to discuss staff depression, stress and anger, sleep related hazards at workplace and dealing with absence from work and drug related problems.
“Unfortunately, mental health issue is the least spoken issue among the Safety and Health Officers (SHO) that are entrusted to managed safety and health issue at the workplace. This becomes naturally entrenched because it is not part of their training and not covered in details in the existing OSH Act 1994. Therefore, the domino effect of this is that issue of mental health most likely remains undetected or manage properly at the workplace. This issue is also compounded by the stigma attached to mental health that is often equated to madness, as commonly understood by the society and employees. Due to poor understanding of mental health, it is often regarded as taboo to talk about mental health and to seek professional help. Due to the confidential nature of doctor and patient relationship employers may totally be unaware that an employee is suffering from mental illness and would not be in position to carry out any intervention to assist” adds Datuk Dr Syed Hussain.
“Employers should promote good mental health practices and provide tools for recognition and early identification and establish links with local mental health services for referral, treatment and rehabilitation. The SHO and the Safety and Health Committee should enhance its functions and role at the workplace by conducting the following:
- identify work problems caused by mental ill health;
- to take action to improve the mental health of employees
- to assist employers in modifying the work and work environment to reduce mental stress
- to enable employees with mental health to remain at work rather than withdraw.
There is urgent need for greater collaboration between the employees/trade unions, government and employers to address mental health at the workplace.”
In this challenging times more should be done to identify mental health issues among the employees. Employers must have employees trained in their human resource department, safety and health department, the safety and health committee, medical health unit to manage this. MEF is of the view that protecting the precious life of employees is the duty of care of all employers in line with sections 15 and 17 of the OSH Act. MEF believes that a healthy work force is a highly productive workforce.
For further information, please contact the MEF Secretariat at 03-7955-7778 or fax 03-7955-9008 or email email@example.com
17 September 2022