By Edleen B Elba, Managing Partner, JobSearch
In a recent survey carried out by JobSearch, a human resources management company, only 30% of respondents said they knew how to access mental health wellbeing services in Sierra Leone.
One in four people experiences mental distress in their lifetime. In Sierra Leone, an estimated 13 per cent of the population suffer from a mental health condition, according to research from the University of York, and with only two psychiatrists, two Clinical Psychologists and 19 Mental Health Nurses for a population of approximately 7,000,000 people (source: World Health Organisation), diagnosing and treating mental health conditions in Sierra Leone is extremely challenging.
The workplace brings with it its own set of pressures, with one in six workers reporting depression, anxiety or unmanageable stress. A further one in six experiences symptoms of mental ill health such as sleep problems and fatigue.
In JobSearch’s survey of Sierra Leonean workers, over 90% of respondents believed that their mental health and that of their colleagues affected their work and vice versa. With approximately 62.2% of the working age population (source: Sierra Leone 2014 Labor force survey report) being employed, organisations would be best placed to have mental health wellbeing programmes which aim at helping to reduce mental health cases, as well as provide a safe working environment for sufferers of mental health conditions and their colleagues.
Twenty-three percent of workers who responded to JobSearch’s survey stated that they did not know how their organisations managed workplace mental wellbeing, 17% were not aware of any mental wellbeing support that their organisations offered to staff, over 90% thought it would be helpful for organisations to have a programme in place to promote mental health wellbeing for their employees, and more than 82% thought updated laws affecting employment in Sierra Leone would help with employees’ mental wellbeing.
An organisation relies on a healthy and productive workforce to ensure that its strategies are implemented and when it comes to mental health in the workplace, there are several reasons why looking after employees pays dividends.
Having an effective mental health wellbeing programme could increase productivity, improve staff performance, allow employees to recognise the signs early and reduce employee medical costs. For example, a policy that encourages work/life balance would be appreciated by employees who have family commitments. Team building and counselling initiatives are known to help relieve some of the stress caused within the workplace and outside. Education about the effects of alcohol and substance abuse, the stigmatisation people experience and penalties for discrimination would make employees feel more comfortable about discussing their mental health.
For employers who invest in the development of their staff, losing an employee to a treatable mental health condition means losing their skills, knowledge and abilities, when in fact, an employee with a mental health condition, spotted and treated early, could return to work, after having treatment and be just as productive afterward.
Developing and implementing an effective mental health wellbeing programme requires dedication, research and training which makes it time-consuming. It can also be expensive to set up. However, the future rewards are evident in the long run, including improvement of healthcare in Sierra Leone. Investing in employees’ mental health wellbeing is a worthwhile investment.
For more information and to develop a mental health wellbeing program, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org