Two words have created greater discussion in Jamaica due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and these are, ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’, especially in the workplace. Employees in many organizations have longed to express feelings of stress, fatigue, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, and sometimes suicidal thoughts due to their mental well-being being impacted negatively.
In an article written by the Jamaica Observer, Sunday, January 13, 2019, The Human Resource Association Management of Jamaica, in collaboration with Essential Medial Services (EMS), spoke about the impact of mental health issues in the workplace and how it allows employees to be unable to perform at their optimum. According to a statistical report from the Ministry of Health, due to the absence of employees from the workplace because of mental health issues, the country lost over $859 million in 2013-2014. Meanwhile, the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle survey (2016-2017), released by the Ministry of Health, showed a national estimate of 14.3 percent in the prevalence of depression. For women, this prevalence was 18.5 percent, and 9.9 percent among men.
It is clear that based on the alarming findings in the Ministry of Health report, there is a correlation between anxiety and depression, and the impact on productivity in the workplace. Local expert and clinical psychologist Dr. Parnell Bell said, “the global statistic actually shows that overall, one in four persons at some time in their life, will experience mental illness.” Dr. Bell who is also a member of the Jamaica Psychological Society called on organizations to implement mental wellness systems to ameliorate work-related stress.
The awareness campaign on mental health must begin with employers in the organization. This should be a cause for concern to employers because mental health issue does affect productivity. This issue should be a priority to every Human Resource Department to implement systems that ensure that employees are educated on the symptoms of anxiety and depression and advised of coping mechanism that will help them to perform better and meet deadlines on time.
A workplace wellness consultant and medical doctor at Essential Medical Services, Dr. Ijah Thompson also indicated that there is the stigma that is often attached to mental health, stressing the need for capacity building in organizations that will encourage mental well-being. “Informally, I see six out of 10 persons having great difficulty with sleep health, and at least six out of 10 report that their level of positivity is affected by their feelings about the impact of their health in the work-place,” Dr Thompson said.
The campaign title will be “Conversations With Teachers (Mental Health).” The main objectives of this campaign are:
- To educate and create conversations about anxiety and depression in high schools.
- To provide tips on how to identify signs that your teacher may be suffering from anxiety or depression.
- Encourage the teachers to become advocates for mental health in their workplace.
The campaign managers are Romane Beckford, a certified Digital Marketer and owner of R&R Designz1 and Beyonce Thomas – a student of Journalism at The University of the West Indies. This campaign arises as a result of an internship being done with Live Well Jamaica, where interns are asked to select a particular social issue of interest. Our team selected the social issue surrounding anxiety and depression and how it affects high school teachers. A duration of six weeks was given to complete the task assigned. To arrive at the findings, we conducted a secondary research and interviewed teachers to learn how their mental health was being affected at their place of employment. The second task was to gather information about the symptoms of anxiety and depression and to highlight coping mechanisms on how to overcome the stressors in the working environment. A soft launch was done recently on Facebook Live on the Live Well Jamaica page to provide information to our audience about the findings and an interview with a teacher who learns to cope with anxiety in her stressful working environment has been published on the Live Well Jamaica blog.
Finally, we expect that based on conducting the research and providing statistical data to show how poor mental health can affect productivity in the organization, that employers will be more concerned and implement systems along with their human resource department to assist employees to cope better with mental health. Secondly, that our teachers will learn from our findings and start having conversations about their mental health issues and how to overcome them. Lastly, we hope that our target audience will take action and speak to their coordinators or heads of department to create workshops and implement systems in the secondary schools surrounding the issue of anxiety and depression. A Facebook page will be created for our target audience to display our research and findings on anxiety and depression in the workplace. We felt that this medium will give us a better reach and engagement with our target audience. The message will be conveyed through video, images, statistics, animation, etc. Additionally, other media that will be used to convey the message of our campaign are public service announcements, media releases, and a targeted public engagement.
Persons can get involved by becoming mental health advocates in their organization or they can visit Livewellja.com for more information. Also, thanks to our stakeholder groups who provided us with first-hand information on this social issue: Teachers from Kingston Technical, Jonathan Grant, and Centred Ja.