How to improve mental health at work?

The health crisis has increased the incidence of anxiety and depression worldwide by 25%.

Depression of a teleworker @BelgaImage

To cope with the growing impact of anxiety and depression in the world of work, she advises in particular the practice of yoga or meditation ” in full consciousness to reduce stress.

The two UN agencies in charge of health and work respectively, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Labor Organization (ILO), have published a series of advice to prevent and protect themselves. against the risks threatening mental health at work. They advise the practice of yoga or mindfulness meditation to reduce stress, but also activities such as physical exercise and walking to ” improve mental health and work capacityI “.

The two UN organizations have launched this advice guide at a time when it is estimated that 15% of adults (one in six) of working age suffer from mental disorders, which can be amplified in the workplace by bullying and other forms of psychological abuse. Psychological distress is indeed costly to those who suffer from it and to society. An estimated 12 billion working days are lost each year due to depression and anxiety, or $1 trillion, according to the WHO and ILO.

Before the pandemic, almost a billion people suffered from a mental disorder

“It’s time to focus on the detrimental effects that work can have on our mental health“, urges WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a joint statement.” Individual well-being is reason enough to act, but poor mental health can also have a debilitating impact on a person’s performance and productivity.“, he insists. The WHO warned in June that almost a billion people worldwide were living with a mental disorder before the Covid-19 pandemic, which made the situation even worse.

The health crisis has increased the incidence of anxiety and depression worldwide by 25%, according to the agency, which reports that only 2% on average of national health budgets are allocated to mental health, while that two out of three countries do not have programs for the prevention and treatment of mental health problems at work. ” The numbers are alarmingManal Azzi, head of the ILO’s occupational safety and health team, told reporters.

We have a huge responsibility ahead of us. “The workplace itself is often a trigger. In its new report on how best to counter the problem, the WHO points out that a purposeful job can protect mental well-being, provide a sense of accomplishment, self-confidence and generate income.

But conversely harmful or poor working conditions, poor labor relations and unemployment” can contribute significantly to the worsening of mental health or the aggravation of existing mental health problemss”. The workplace can also amplify broader issues that negatively affect mental health, such as discrimination based on gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability, the WHO adds. .

Prevent bullying and difficult relationships

One of the most important – and new – recommendations is to train managers on how to prevent stressful work environments and respond to workers in distress. Aiysha Malik, from the WHO’s department of mental health and substance abuse, explained that it was essential ” to prevent people from being at risk such as very heavy workloads (…) being the victim of bullying, difficult relationships with colleagues or superiors“. This must change, she said, or we will continue” struggle with our mental health at work, regardless of the number of stress management tools ” that we apply.

In addition to these new guidelines, WHO and ILO have published a joint guidance note, outlining practical strategies for governments, employers and workers and their organizations. It also explains how to support people with mental disorders and help them participate and thrive in the workplace. ” We must invest to build a culture of prevention around mental health in the workplace, reshape the work environment to end stigma and social exclusion, and ensure employees with mental health issues feel protected and supportedsaid ILO chief Guy Ryder in the statement.

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How to improve mental health at work?

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