Disclosing a mental health problem is not easy

However, 69 per cent of respondents experienced negative or no response when they discussed it with them.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month and Sadag commemorated World Mental Health Day on October 10. The international theme this year involved looking at mental health in the workplace.

Sadag released research two years ago which found that one in four South African employees had been diagnosed with depression.

This year, Sadag conducted an online survey which focused specifically on the issue of stigma in the workplace as it has become a key problem within the office and affects both employees and employers.

Psychiatrist and clinical psychologist Dr Frans Korb said: “Depression affects cognitive functioning such as decision making, concentration, memory and problem-solving abilities. Depression negatively impacts productivity.”

The new survey results were based on responses from 499 participants of which 79 per cent were female and 21 per cent were male.

59 per cent of respondents were aged between 31 and 50 years. Interestingly, 44 per cent of the respondents indicated they were uncomfortable with disclosing their mental health issue to a manager. Callers often express this sentiment when they call the Sadag helpline looking for advice or help.

One participant said: “I was made to feel weak and was rejected and felt unworthy.”

In the survey, 29 per cent of participants indicated they had not told anyone yet about their mental health issue. Only a minority of 16 per cent actually felt comfortable enough to disclose their mental illness to their manager or supervisor.

Sadag operations director Cassey Chambers said: “This is one of the reasons it’s vital to examine how depression is managed in the workplace and what procedures are in place to ensure that affected employees are encouraged to and supported in seeking treatment.”

The survey suggests 86 per cent of employees have indicated that having a mental illness has made their work life more difficult.

“It directly impacts on my ability to cope,” said one female.

Sadag’s founder, Zane Wilson, said the results of this study emphasise that more education and urgent training is needed for managers who may want to help, but don’t feel well enough trained or equipped to do so.

A large percentage, namely 56 per cent of respondents indicated that they had taken time off work over the last 12 months because of their mental illness.

This directly affects a company’s overall productivity and costs the company money.

Further evidence shows that mental health should matter in the workplace because looking after employees’ mental well-being could have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

Chambers said this is where Sadag plays a vital role because it provides mental healthcare workshops, talks, wellness days and educational material to companies.

“By bringing depression, bipolar disorder, panic and trauma out into the open and raising awareness about the symptoms and treatment of these disorders, we will make the SA workplace healthier,” said Chambers.

You can contact Sadag on 0800 70 80 90 for more information or visit their website at www.sadag.org

Ntombikayise Sibeko

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