LISTEN | We need to open up more about mental health in the workplace
The month of October has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month, with the objective of not only educating the public about mental health but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illnesses are often subjected to.
While a lot of progress has been made in bringing mental illnesses out of the shadows, a stubborn stigma still persists. This prevents many South Africans from talking openly about mental health issues, especially in the workplace.
We spoke to Penny Mkhize, an HR specialist who spends her days fighting for employee rights and unpacking mental health stigmas in workplaces.
“Mental health awareness and education is extremely important in the workplace, not only for those affected but also to educate fellow employees on exactly what it is and eradicate the stigmas that come with it,” she said.
In 2017, a survey by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) revealed that just one in six employees with mental illness said they felt comfortable disclosing their condition to the manager.
Mkhize also highlighted the importance of fostering a healthy organisational culture of psychological safety, as well as the training of managers who help create a healthy working environment for everyone in the workplace.
“If mental health issues are not addressed and given the urgency that they need in the workplace, then it is inevitable that there will be a decrease in productivity as well as an increase in absenteeism,” says Mkhize.
She emphasised the important of talking openly about mental health conditions in the workplace and that we shouldn't only raise these issues in October but that this should be a conversation we have all year round.