WHO/ILO roll out policy brief on workplace mental health

The United Nations bodies for health and labour — the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) — have published fresh guidelines on the issue of mental health at the workplace.

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A policy brief has been jointly published by the World Health Organsiation (WHO) and the International Labour Organsiation (ILO) about the need to address mental health issues at the workplace, in addition to fresh guidelines from WHO on the subject.

The latest documents comprising global guidelines on mental health at work recommend measures for dealing with risks to mental health, including behavioural factors, excessive work pressure/load and so on that may trigger distress at work. The WHO also recommends training for managers so that they develop the capabilities to ensure that the work environment remains free of stress.

The United Nations has acknowledged that safeguarding the mental health of employees at the workplace is an area that requires a lot of attention. The two documents published by WHO and ILO warn that psychological distress may take a toll on individuals and the society in general. Therefore, the needs of employees with mental health issues should be addressed and accommodated better so that they receive adequate support and are able to smoothly return to work. The guidelines also point out the need for interventions that will protect the mental health of those employed in the health, emergency and humanitarian space.

About 12 billion work days are reportedly lost annually owing to depression and anxiety, which costs the global economy almost $1 trillion! In fact, WHO’s ‘World Mental Health Report’ published earlier this year revealed that out of a billion people suffering from a mental disorder in 2019, about 15 per cent of the adults (of working age) had experienced mental disorder. The work environment only worsens mental health issues. For instance, bullying is common at the workplace and a primary form of workplace harassment, which adversely affects mental health.

The policy brief offers practical strategies and ways — not just for governments but also organisations/employers and employees in the public and private sectors—to preserve and promote mental health at the workplace. The guidelines point out how important a healthy work environment is to a working professional’s mental health, as he or she spends a significant part of his/her life there.

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