Employers Urged to Provide Support for Persons with Mental Illness

Photo: Mark Bell Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Maureen Irons-Morgan, receives the Proclamation for World Mental Health Day from Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, at King’s House.

Story Highlights

  • Employers are being urged to provide support for employees who may be afflicted with mental-health issues, by the Ministry of Health.
  • Dr. Irons-Morgan pointed out that while the ability to do work and to work productively is a marker of mental health, it is important to note that there are issues in the workplace that can affect a person’s mental health in a negative way. She said it is important to examine all of the factors that support mental health by looking at the issues that make a workplace mentally friendly.
  • She said that illnesses such as depression and anxiety are related to chemical changes in the body and that they can be diagnosed and treated with medication or counselling, adding that there are other things that persons can do to help, apart from taking medication, like physical exercise, relaxation and learning how to manage stress.

Employers are being urged to provide support for employees who may be afflicted with mental-health issues, by the Ministry of Health.

According to the Ministry, one in every five persons in the workplace has mental-health issues. In an interview with JIS News, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the Ministry, Dr.

Maureen Irons-Morgan, explained that two of the most common issues that are dealt with every day are anxiety and depression.

She said they are very common conditions, and these can affect productivity in the workplace.

Dr. Irons-Morgan explained that these are issues that will affect an employee’s ability to do his or her work productively.

“It affects the bottom line as well as interpersonal relationships, and it is in everyone’s interest to address mental-health issues,” she said, adding that if the person is psychologically stable, then they are able to perform, which bodes well for both the employee and the employer.

“We are very concerned, because we realise that people are being discriminated against by some employers whenever they disclose that they have mental-health problems, and we think that among the root causes are lack of knowledge and understanding and fear on the part of employers,” Dr. Irons-

Morgan added. She said the way to deal with this is to help employers to understand more about mental-health conditions.

Dr. Irons-Morgan pointed out that while the ability to do work and to work productively is a marker of mental health, it is important to note that there are issues in the workplace that can affect a person’s mental health in a negative way. She said it is important to examine all of the factors that support mental health by looking at the issues that make a workplace mentally friendly.

According to the Director, many factors can come together to affect anyone. “Like any other illness, sometimes there are genetic factors and sometimes there are social factors like stress-related matters or stressful conditions that persons may encounter. For some people, it might be workload issues that may trigger it, and for others, family issues,” she said.

She pointed out that clinical depression is an illness and should be treated as such, and explained that “it is not something that people do or because they are weak”.

She said that illnesses such as depression and anxiety are related to chemical changes in the body and that they can be diagnosed and treated with medication or counselling, adding that there are other things that persons can do to help, apart from taking medication, like physical exercise, relaxation and learning how to manage stress.

World Mental Health Day 2017 will be observed on October 10 under the theme ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’, and it is intended to draw attention to the importance of mental health and increase public awareness, as most adults spend a significant portion of their lives in the workplace.

The Ministry of Health has arranged a week of activities, which will culminate in a National Conference on Mental Health at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Friday, October 13.

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