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Health minister: One in four diagnosed with mental illness in T&T
One in four people has a diagnosis of mental illness. And doctors, lawyers and dentists have a higher rate of suicide than people from other professions. In 2011, 32,000 people visited The Mental Health Hospital in St Ann’s for various psychiatric disorders, disclosed Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan yesterday.
Khan was speaking at a breakfast seminar titled, Plan, Prevent, Protect: What employers must know and do about mental health in the workplace, hosted by the Human Resource Management Association of T&T held at Crowne Plaza, Port-of-Spain. Khan said the visits to St Ann’s included issues relating to psychiatric, psychological and addiction problems as well as emergency and non-emergency cases.
Khan, however, said the figure of 32,000 was not excessive, adding, “One person may have visited St Ann’s ten times. “When you look at the figures globally, mental health is a very significant problem.” Health-service providers and attorneys, Khan said, were more prone to stress-related and addiction problems.
Saying there was very little comparative data available, Khan added that between 20 and 25 per cent of T&T’s population have experienced a mental disorder or are currently afflicted by mental illness. He said concerns about mental-health issues in the workplace were increasing worldwide and this affected productivity and carried human and financial costs which extended to the individual, family, organisations and society.
“This situation, combined with the fact that there is still stigma attached to mental illness, further compounds the issue. “Mental illness is still a taboo. It is not even spoken about among family members, let alone co-workers and employers,” Khan said. He added this was because mental illness still remained misunderstood, as signs were often difficult to deduce.
As the world advanced there was often tremendous pressure to maximise productivity and minimise costs. What does this mean for the worker? “It means the employee is required to do more with less and for less. There is then a domino effect. “Increased job stress leads to a decreased number of satisfied employees. This in turn results in increased job dissatisfaction and increased worker depression,” Khan said.
And as a consequence, mental illness has become a major issue for management. Next month the ministry is expected to embark on a mental-health awareness campaign in collaboration with the public and private sectors. Defining mental illness as the impairment of an individual’s normal cognitive, emotional or behavioural function, Khan said symptoms relating to employees include:
• Increased absenteeism
• Reduced performance
• Increased accidents on the job
• Violent behaviour
• Prolonged sadness or irrit-ability
• Excessive anger
• Extreme emotional highs and lows
“Underlying causes can be broken relationships, the death of a loved one, a financial difficulty, a major physical disorder or even interpersonal conflicts. “Each one of these situations can result in an employee who can no longer cope with the normal stresses of life,” Khan said.
By 2020, he added, depression will rank second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide. Employers can create a healthy work environment by:
• Motivating employees
• Establishing job security
• Proper job design and schedules
• Fair compensation
• Creating learning opportunities
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