Why Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace is an Important Issue
By Hilmarie Hutchison, CEO, Matrix Public Relations
Mental health issues have a significant impact on employees’ productivity, their ability to learn and progress, and their overall wellbeing. Thankfully, the importance of mental health awareness in the workplace has increased during the past few years.
With the spread of COVID19, the number of people saying that the epidemic has worsened their mental health reached 42%, according to the Public Relations and Communications Association, PRCA, MENA Mental Health Report 2022. The report was issued in collaboration with YouGov and surveyed a total of 1,728 PR and communications professionals across the MENA region.
Key Findings from PRCA MENA Mental Health Report 2022
The report shows that a lot of people in the MENA region recognize the role that their work environment has on their mental health with 51% of the respondents saying that they believe that their workplace has a strong influence on their mental health.
The triggers of mental health problems caused by the workplace or an unsuitable working environment, according to the report, include lack of reward or recognition for good work (38%), long working hours (36%), not achieving enough career growth (36%), and high workload (31%).
On the other hand, a large number of respondents noted that they do not have enough time to practice things that are beneficial for both their physical and mental health. Interestingly, this does not seem like a problem directly caused by their work or employer, but it is principally related to the working environment and the attitude of those employees. For example, some employees could likely be the cause of a toxic work environment.
These two factors, combined, led to a considerable number of participants who suffered from mental health problems during the last 12 months. According to the report, 41% of the respondents faced a significant change in sleeping schedule or appetite, 33% felt extreme highs and lows, 31% lost interest in social activities and positive interactions with others, and 31% noted that they suffer from excessive fear, worry, or anxiety.
It is not a surprise that some employees experience mental health problems because of their work environment. The challenge lies in their ability to identify when and how to seek help. According to the PRCA, MENA Mental Health Report 2022, 72% of the respondents said that they are confident that they can notice signs and symptoms of mental health issues, 62% noted that they know where to seek professional help for mental problems, and 62% stated that they are willing to seek help if they face mental health issues.
However, these figures might be deceptive! In reality, a fewer number of employees seek help when they experience mental health problems. When respondents were asked what someone should do if they face one of the mental health challenges, 70% noted that they would see a doctor, GP or mental health professional. Nevertheless, only 27% of people who had experienced that in the last 12 months visited a doctor.
The research shows that these employees would rather resort to other people around them to address these problems. For example, a large number of employees, 38%, address these issues with co-workers. However, a significant number, 32%, didn’t speak about these challenges with anyone at work. This is because they fear this would affect their image, future progress, and growth opportunities.
The statistics are clear indicators that more companies should make employee mental health a priority. These issues do not only affect the employees themselves but also have a significant impact on their colleagues and the working environment.
More than 67% of the respondents asserted that their companies are either not doing enough or do not take the matter seriously. This is a clear indicator that all organizations, regardless of their size or the number of employees working there, should exert more efforts to ensure their team members enjoy a healthy mind which in turn would reflect on their productivity and achievements at work.