TELL Japan

World Mental Health Day 

Published on October 2, 2017

October 10 marks one of the most significant days in TELL’s calendar – World Mental Health Day.

We all know that mental health – whether in the workplace, the home or in society at large – is a huge issue that is rarely addressed or given the attention it deserves. Every year, World Mental Health Day presents an opportunity for open discussions on mental illnesses as well as investments in prevention and treatment services and this year, the focus is on mental health in the workplace. Worldwide, more than 600 million people suffer from depression or anxiety, that is one in four people, or one in five in the workplace. Whether we know it or not, we all have co-workers, managers, friends or family members who are affected by this. As you read this, you may realise that this applies to you, too. In 2016, a World Health Organization study estimated that a staggering 12 billion working days will be lost to depression and anxiety every year until 2030, with a loss in productivity of more than $900 billion.

Like in most other industrialized countries, the number of people struggling with mental illness in Japan has been steadily increasing over the past decade. A recent, four-year longitudinal Japanese study found that long work hours – along with unclear clear job descriptions and the ability to exercise discretion in performing tasks – notably erodes the mental health of workers. Their research also found that when a co-worker is suffering from a mental illness, the mental health of other workers is also likely to be poor.

What is the social cost of this? All around the world, stigma, prejudice and discrimination surrounding mental illnesses deprive people of their dignity, and act as barriers to vital support and treatment options. All too often, people are left to struggle alone. They can feel like a failure, they can feel hopeless, they can tragically feel like taking their own life because they are unaware that help is available. In Japan, while the number of suicides has decreased in recent years, there are still 60 people who end their own lives every day. We know that for every completed suicide, there are an estimated 25 attempts. This number is just too high.

Luckily, a shift in societal attitudes is slowly moving us in a better direction. As our societies and workplaces change, traditional ways of looking at the workforce are being reevaluated. Many younger employees’ rate workplaces that value employee well-being much higher when weighing up potential job offers. Provisions for well-being in the workplace not only help retain employees, but can also help attract top talent, too. Is your workplace mental health friendly? Below are some guidelines to get you started:

• Include health care that treats mental illness with the same urgency as physical illness.

• Have programs and practices that promote and support employee health-wellness and / or work-life balance.

• Provide training for managers and front-line supervisors in mental health workplace issues, including identification of performance problems that may indicate employee distress and possible need for referral and evaluation.

• Provide an Employee Assistance Program or other appropriate referral resources to assist managers and employees.

• Support employees who seek treatment or who require hospitalization and disability leave, including a return to work plan.

TELL offers a range of presentations, workshops and services year round that can help your organization achieve best practice in mental health care provision. If you are interested in creating a mentally healthy workplace, please contact sannesley@telljp.com for further information about our services.

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