12 billion working days lost

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“12 billion working days lost.” Much more needs to be done to protect mental health in the workplace, urges the United Nations. Faced with an “alarming” report, on September 28, they presented new recommendations.

By Nina Larson

Psychological distress is costly to those who suffer from it and to society, according to the two UN agencies in charge of health and labor respectively. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Labor Organization (ILO) have released a series of tips to prevent and protect against mental health risks at work. An estimated 12 billion working days are lost each year due to depression and anxiety, or $1 trillion, according to the WHO and ILO.

Figures “alarming

It’s time to focus on the detrimental effects work can have on our mental health“WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said 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. of working six suffers from a mental disorder, according to the WHO.”The numbers are alarming“, Manal 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.

Have a motivating job

In its new report on the best way to counter the problem, the WHO points out that a motivating job can protect mental well-being, provide a sense of achievement, self-confidence and generate income. But, conversely, harmful or poor working conditions, poor labor relations and unemployment”can contribute significantly to worsening mental health or aggravation of existing mental health problems“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.

Train managers

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.

Building a culture of prevention

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 supported“ILO chief Guy Ryder said in the statement.

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