Achieving good mental health is constantly a work in progress, not a fixed endpoint. Jim Falteisek, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, 3M Asia, reminds employers about what we can do to tackle this silent killer.

The strains of the COVID-19 pandemic have brought the issue of 'mental health' to the forefront like never before. Yet, do we know what this buzzword means?

Mental health refers to an overall state of wellbeing where one can realise their abilities, cope with the stresses of life and work productively, and anyone can fall victim to poor mental health. Dubbed a 'silent killer' by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health issues represent the second-biggest health issue in Asia Pacific. Locally, suicide is the top cause of death for Singapore youths aged 20 to 29.

Despite these alarming rates, mental health remains poorly understood due to the social stigma surrounding the topic. Sufferers thus avoid treatment, furthering the vicious cycle of stress and despair.

Mental health at work

These issues are affecting the workplace. Close to one-third of Asia Pacific’s remote workers admitted that the pandemic has increased burnout at work. Faced with ever-present deadlines, the stress and pressure employees face is worsened by a lack of transparent communication. For instance, 63% of employees do not feel comfortable revealing to coworkers that they took time off work because of mental health issues, continuing this lack of mental health awareness.

Last year, our coworkers have been challenged like never before, yet they emerged with newfound resilience.

Owing to their collective grit, businesses managed to survive the pandemic, further proving that the wellbeing of human capital should always come first.

A recent WHO-led study estimated that every US$1 invested in common mental health disorder treatment, brings a US$4 return in improved health and productivity. Conversely, failure to address mental health issues globally costs US$1tn annually in lost productivity.

Here’s what we can do:

Do not be afraid to talk about mental health. Remember that you’re not alone, trust that there will be people that will support you. If you’ve not experienced mental health issues, try educating yourself so that you can better help those in-need.

Reach out when you need help. Be honest with your boss and colleagues. At 3M, employees are encouraged to regularly communicate their working preferences through the FlexAbility programme which encourages supervisors to help remove obstacles facing employees at work. This fosters better relationships and workflow.

Try new coping strategies. Engaging and connecting with others may help you find new ideas on coping with stress. To help employees navigate the post-pandemic world, 3M held a Global Virtual Wellbeing Fair, providing employees with resources that benefit their physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing.

Be aware of available resources. Companies like 3M offer resources such as the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), so employees are properly supported throughout their careers, ranging from telecounselling to advice for working parents.

Ultimately, achieving good mental health is constantly a work in progress, not a fixed endpoint. With the right resources and working environment, we can move towards creating an inclusive and collaborative workplace. It is time to step up efforts and be responsible, caring, and empathetic leaders in the 21st century.

Photo / 123RF

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