Mental health in the workplace

Mental health in the workplace:

In the fast-paced and demanding world of today, professional commitments often take center stage.
The significance of mental health in the workplace cannot be overstated. The modern workplace has evolved from being a space of productivity to a setting that plays a crucial role in shaping employees’ overall well-being.
As organisations strive for success, it is becoming increasingly clear that prioritising mental health support is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity. MUA partnered with The Talking Point to support employees in their journey of mental wellness.

Resilience comes with a price

Ilse Coetsee from the Talking Point notes that September was International Suicide Prevention Month and reminded us all of how businesses, leadership, colleagues, friends, partners, parents and teachers should look after themselves to be able to care for those around them. While we are seeing a considerable reduction in COVID- 19 cases, the long-term effects of the pandemic will remain with us for a while.
‘South Africans are resilient’ is a refrain we often hear – take into consideration load shedding and the energy crisis, and the cost-of-living crisis… yes, South Africans are resilient, and our capacity for humour in difficult times never fails us. But Coetsee says there is a price to be paid, and the increase in mental health claims tells quite a depressing story.
According to Coetsee, the key challenges are access to professionals in private practices and immediate access to containment support 24/7/365 by a platform easily accessible to all. Often there are waiting lists of three weeks to see psychologists and even longer to get access to a psychiatrist.
According to the Global Health Estimates report, South Africa has the third-highest suicide rate out of all African countries, at 23.5 per population of 100 000.

Mental health support

Mental well-being has for too long been swept under the carpet and can no longer be a mere tick-box item to a business. It starts at the top with leadership committing to mental well-being and human support 24/7/365.
The workplace can be a double-edged sword when it comes to mental health. On one hand, it can contribute to stress and burnout due to long hours, high demands, and a lack of work-life balance. On the other hand, it has the potential to be a source of purpose, social interaction, and personal growth. It all comes down to how organisations approach mental health support, says Coetsee.
Forward-thinking companies now under- stand that a healthy workforce translates into a more productive and innovative one. Creating a supportive environment begins with destigmatising mental health conversations. Open discussions about stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges can help employees feel heard and understood.
Implementing robust mental health support systems not only benefits employees but also pays dividends for employers. Offering counselling services, flexible work arrangements, and wellness programs can significantly reduce absenteeism and turnover rates. It also fosters a positive organisational culture where employees feel valued, leading to higher job satisfaction and increased loyalty.

Marike van Niekerk
Manager – Legal, Marketing and Communications and Compliance Officer MUA

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