Prioritise mental health of employees, experts tell employers


Grace Edema

Some mental health experts have called on both government and private employers to prioritise the mental health of workers.

An Occupational Health and Safety Management Consultant, Mr. Ehi Iden, in an interview with The PUNCH, stated that a majority of Nigerian workplaces neglected the mental health of their workers, saying Nigeria did not have a known National Workplace Mental Health Policy or Guidelines.

Iden who is also a Mental Health Ambassador and a Member External Review Group to WHO on Mental Health at Workplaces, said, ‘‘What we see is profit above employee’s safety, health and wellbeing. In the true sense, these all have to work together and not be placed in the competition. 

‘‘Organisations profit when employees are healthy but most organisations do not know how to measure this, they lose so much without knowing. Employees become unproductive and optimally drained. They first have to understand how mental health affects employees, employee’s families, and productivity.

‘‘They should create a healthy workplace that has lots of flexibilities and provisions to work from home and a just and transparent system where individuals’ peculiarities are considered above workload.

‘Employers should focus on employees’ efforts and not result, focus on growing employees mental health and wellbeing and not just figures or profit.’’

While speaking on how organisations can achieve a healthy workplace that promotes the mental health and wellbeing of employees, Iden said, ‘‘The first step is to identify mental health as a key workplace issue and make provisions for it within the company’s workplace health and safety policy. 

‘‘You can only act on what you provided for in your policy. Consider employees and see them first as a human before seeing them as employees. 

“Create workplace mental health awareness training for everyone. A lot of people lack an understanding of what mental health is. Train managers, supervisors and team lead on ‘Safe People Management.”

Iden advised the populace to demand enabling health and safety laws to govern workplaces, saying there should be a call for effective enforcement of those laws without fear or favour.

Also speaking, a consultant psychiatrist, Dr. Oyewole Adewole, said, ‘’Recruitment should be fair and taken into consideration to ensure that qualified people are recruited, job placement should ensure that the job roles match training and experience, there should be clear communication lines, rewards are appropriate than no punishment, rather let management do negative reinforcement and re-interviewing for re-posting, conduct mental health workshops to identify those that are stressed, ensure work-life balance and treatment.’’

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