Lo­cal ex­perts to ad­dress men­tal health and Ja­maica’s low pro­duc­tiv­ity

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - NEWS - BY SHAR­LENE HENDRICKS Staff re­porter hen­[email protected]­maicaob­server.com

The hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion of Ja­maica (HRMAJ), in col­lab­o­ra­tion with es­sen­tial Med­i­cal Ser­vices (EMS), will be tack­ling the is­sue of men­tal well-be­ing in the work­place in an up­com­ing sem­i­nar, given sta­tis­tics which show that Ja­maica has the low­est pro­duc­tiv­ity rates in the Amer­i­cas.

Sec­re­tariat man­ager of HRMAJ, Su­san Brod­ber, listed mis­matched skills, the in­abil­ity of work­ers to ab­sorb new tech­nol­ogy skills, mi­gra­tion of skilled work­ers, the level of work to be done, and late­ness and trans­porta­tion as some of the main rea­sons for Ja­maica’s pro­duc­tiv­ity. An­other ma­jor rea­son was a lack of men­tal well-be­ing.

Lo­cal ex­pert and clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Dr Par­nel Bell, who is sched­uled to speak at the Op­ti­mal Pro­duc­tiv­ity, Win­ning Minds sem­i­nar on Jan­uary 30, told the Ja­maica Ob­server that the aim of the con­fer­ence is to recog­nise men­tal well­ness as a 21st cen­tury im­per­a­tive for or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“Men­tally healthy peo­ple will per­form at their op­ti­mum and will in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity. The global statis­tic ac­tu­ally shows that over­all, one in four per­sons at some time in their life, will ex­pe­ri­ence men­tal ill­ness.

“Sta­tis­tics from the Min­istry of Health ac­tu­ally show that as a re­sult of the ab­sence of em­ploy­ees from the work­place be­cause of men­tal health is­sues, the coun­try lost over $859 mil­lion in 2013-2014,” Dr Bell said.

Mean­while, the Ja­maica Health and Life­style sur­vey (2016-2017), re­leased by the Min­istry of Health last year, showed a na­tional es­ti­mate of 14.3 per cent in the preva­lence of de­pres­sion. For women, this preva­lence was 18.5 per cent, and 9.9 per cent among men.

Also a mem­ber of the Ja­maica Psy­cho­log­i­cal So­ci­ety, Dr Bell called on or­gan­i­sa­tions to im­ple­ment men­tal well­ness sys­tems to ame­lio­rate work re­lated stress.

“We want to bring aware­ness to the pop­u­la­tion that men­tal well­ness should be the con­cern of em­ploy­ers be­cause it does af­fect pro­duc­tiv­ity. And per­sons with men­tal ill­ness most time will show up at work but they will be in a state of what we call pre­sen­teeism, mean­ing that they are there but they are not re­ally pro­duc­ing any­thing as a re­sult of be­ing in a psy­cho­log­i­cal state that is cre­at­ing men­tal ill­ness.

“So we are say­ing put a men­tal well­ness sys­tem in place that will pre­vent some of the work­place stres­sors that could be cre­at­ing of ex­ac­er­bat­ing men­tal ill­ness for em­ploy­ees; stress is one — be­cause of work -re­lated stress, em­ploy­ees’ pro­duc­tiv­ity is af­fected”, Bell said.

Work­place well­ness con­sul­tant, and med­i­cal doc­tor at Es­sen­tial Med­i­cal Ser­vices, Dr Ijah Thomp­son ad­dressed the stigma of­ten at­tached to men­tal health, stress­ing the need for ca­pac­ity build­ing in or­gan­i­sa­tions that will en­cour­age men­tal well-be­ing.

“The con­fer­ence will spot light men­tal well­ness in the work­place, not just sim­ply men­tal health, which is of­ten per­ceived as some­thing of ill­health such as anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, poor cop­ing skills.

“The work space is where we go to de­velop our life, to get an in­come, and build our ca­reers and so forth. But the work space, as ben­e­fi­cial as it is, is also very stress­ful be­cause [this is] where we have dead­lines that are per­pet­u­ally there, es­pe­cially those that are un­re­al­is­ti­cally planned; where we have high work­load with poor work re­sources, then what we do is de­velop a high level of stress. So we find things like burnout, anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, de­viance come up in the work space.

“What we are look­ing at is both ca­pac­ity build­ing and the abil­ity to have a flour­ish­ing, thriv­ing life — a life that is bal­anced, that is low in stress, and filled with joy and pos­i­tiv­ity. So a men­tally well work­place is one that is joy­ful, one where the em­ploy­ees are grow­ing and thriv­ing, flour­ish­ing; and the or­gan­i­sa­tion by ex­ten­sion is a well and thriv­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion, where pro­duc­tiv­ity and per­for­mance is at its high­est pos­si­ble state”, said Dr Thomp­son.

He also called on em­ploy­ers to be proac­tive in en­sur­ing their em­ploy­ees’ well-be­ing, which he said is cru­cial for pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“Be­ing able to be cog­nisant of the de­mands that work places on the in­di­vid­ual is very im­por­tant for the em­ployer, and to have it as a part of your cul­ture and be proac­tively aware is one of the best ways to pro­tect an or­gan­i­sa­tion against the con­se­quences of poor men­tal well-be­ing.

“The event is dubbed op­ti­mis­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity, or op­ti­mal pro­duc­tiv­ity, be­cause we want them to see that men­tal health is not just about the fuzzy feel­ings, it is also about the bot­tom line. We want them to see that by im­ple­ment­ing things that are good for the men­tal health of their work­force, it is also good for busi­ness equally,” Thomp­son said.

Also a med­i­cal doc­tor, Thomp­son pre­sented in­for­mal data from his per­sonal prac­tice which re­vealed that six out of 10 per­sons re­port that their pos­i­tiv­ity at work is af­fected by their men­tal state.

“In­for­mally, I see six out of 10 per­sons hav­ing great dif­fi­culty with sleep health, and at least six out of 10 re­port that their level of pos­i­tiv­ity is af­fected by their feel­ings about the im­pact of their health in the work­place,” Dr Thomp­son said.

The sem­i­nar, Dr Thomp­son said, will look at how both the in­di­vid­ual and the or­gan­i­sa­tion can op­ti­mise pro­duc­tiv­ity in the work­place.

“An or­gan­i­sa­tion is a col­lec­tion of peo­ple and, as we deal with how the col­lec­tive man­age at the con­fer­ence, we will also deal with how the in­di­vid­ual man­ages. There will be a lot of men­tal well-be­ing, ac­tiv­i­ties to help per­sons ex­pe­ri­en­tially go through that jour­ney of learn­ing how to im­prove and take care of their own state of men­tal well­be­ing. be­cause we do also know that where the lead­er­ship is not men­tally well, that is they are eas­ily stressed and fa­tigued, then the or­gan­i­sa­tion it­self will re­flect a sim­i­lar pat­tern. So we know it is very im­por­tant to work on the lead­ers if we are go­ing to help them work on their or­gan­i­sa­tion as a col­lec­tive.”

The sem­i­nar will tar­get or­gan­i­sa­tion lead­ers, hu­man re­source man­agers, and their strate­gic teams.

Work­place well­ness con­sul­tant and med­i­cal doc­tor, Dr Ijah Thomp­son

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, and mem­ber of the Ja­maica Psy­cho­log­i­cal So­ci­ety, Dr Pear­nel Bell

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