As the month of May draws to a close, some of you may have noticed that there has been a lot of talk about mental health this month. Whether it’s on your newsfeed, in the media, or in a conversation that you “happened to overhear”, mental health is something everyone seems to be talking about. Well, in case you missed it, May is Mental Health Awareness Month/ Mental Health Month.
What is it, and why should you care?
To be honest, you don’t have to, but I’ll go ahead and tell you why you should, and let you decide for yourself.
Mental Health Month is an initiative which was started in 1949 in the United States by the National Association for Mental Health (now called Mental Health America). The purpose of this initiative is to raise awareness about mental health, mental illness and the stigmas that surround it through public education. Subsequent to this, other similar organizations have followed in their footsteps, which has helped to make the event a worldwide topic for the month of May.
Here in sweet T&T, slowly but surely, we’re following suit…and with good reason.
Mental health is key to overall health and well-being, but most times it’s a topic that we tip-toe around or avoid. Between “God is a Trini” and the general “hakuna matata” attitude of our people, “these things” can’t possibly affect us.
The facts, however, say otherwise. According to the Sixth Report of the Joint Select Committee on Social Services and Public Administration as of April 2017, “Trinidad & Tobago is ranked the third highest in the Caribbean with respect to the prevalence of mental illness.” Furthermore, it stated that the stigmas associated with mental health deterred persons from seeking and utilizing mental health services.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
So let’s get past the stigma and talk about how mental health could affect your business.
“One in five people at the workplace experience a mental health condition” (PAHO/WHO, 2017). Turning a blind eye to mental health could also mean that you may be overlooking a factor that could be affecting your staff’s absenteeism, reduced productivity, low morale or even your high turnover. Stress is a major factor that can influence an employee’s mental health and can contribute to problems such as depression, anxiety, and even physical ailments.
Naturally, there could be a number of reasons why employees can be stressed at work. Some of these can include poor management practices, poor communication, long or inflexible work hours, lack of team cohesion, bullying and psychological harassment, a feeling of unfulfillment, or even the nature of the job itself. At the end of the day, the workplace affects your workforce which affects the performance of your business.
Clinical and Organizational Psychologist, Kelly Mc Farlane of the Trinidad & Tobago Association of Psychologists suggests a few points for employers in their journey to develop stigma-free workplaces:
- Putting things in place to start changing the culture around mental health at work (programs, posters, shared information etc.)
- Providing training for managers on considerations for mental health in the workplace
- Creating facilities or services aimed at supporting employee mental health and wellbeing.
- Helping staff to feel safe enough to disclose mental health issues to management.
Even if your company does not have an Employee Assistance Program, you can still promote a healthy mental health environment. Whilst in some cases neither you nor your employee may be able to afford treatment, there are a couple of free resources provided by the Ministry of Health that you can share that can help. (see resources below)
Recently, there seems to be more interest in mental health in Trinidad & Tobago by authorities. From the proclamation by the Minister of Health – Terrence Deyalsingh in February of the Government’s intent to decentralize mental health in the country and to hire a National Director of Mental Health, to the newly opened NCRHA’s Stress Relief Centre in Chaguanas in March of this year, T&T seems to be headed in the right direction when it comes to mental health. Following this logic, there’s no doubt that mental health is something you shouldn’t ignore. Your human resources are often the most essential part of your business, so it is in your best interest to seek theirs.
Mental health isn’t black or white, it’s a cycle that is inherent to being human. Your organization’s culture can influence positive mental health amongst your employees, which will encourage better performance.
So, if you’re still thinking about it, think of Mental Health Month as an opportunity, an opportunity to start the conversation about mental health at your workplace. The conversation about the mental health of your employees shouldn’t just be limited to one month of the year, but rather an on-going discussion which can help you to connect with your staff, promote good mental health, and to understand some of the stressors in the workplace that could be affecting your bottom line.
Written by: Devi Ramnath
List of Free Mental Health Services in Trinidad:
TTAP – Find a Psychologist: http://psychologytt.org/ttap-members/
Families in Action
Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS)
Emergency Health Service
Northern Intergroup – 662-4829, 640-5305, 679-0066
Port-of-Spain Intergroup – 628-2288
Southern Intergroup – 657-6367, 677-6856
B2B Intergroup – 620-2580, 650-1692
Tobago – 639-9121, 660-5668
800-4321 (toll free)
National Family Services Division
Rape Crisis Society
PoS – 622-7273
San Fernando – 657-5355
National Domestic Violence Hotline
800-SAVE or 800-7283
Victim and Witness Support
WHO-AIMS REPORT ON MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEMS IN THE CARIBBEAN REGION. (2011). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/mh_systems_caribbeans_en.pdf
INQUIRY INTO MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS SERVICES AND FACILITIES IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. (2019). Retrieved from http://ttparliament.org/reports/p11-s4-J-20181120-SSPA-r6-MHTT.pdf
Mental Health in the Workplace. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_docman&view=download&category_slug=world-mental-health-day-2017-mental-health-workplace-9482&alias=42217-presentation-mental-health-workplace-217&Itemid=270&lang=en
Farlane, K., & Farlane, K. (2019). MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE – WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? – Tapped In. Retrieved from http://psychologytt.org/blog/?p=19
May Is Mental Health Awareness Month — Here’s Why Companies Should Care. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2015/05/20/may-is-mental-health-awareness-month-heres-why-companies-should-care/#6b3cd38a27c0
Cabinet approves National Director of Mental Health post. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.looptt.com/content/cabinet-approves-national-director-mental-health-post
Doughty, M., & Doughty, M. (2019). Walk in and deal with your stress. Retrieved from https://newsday.co.tt/2019/04/24/walk-in-and-deal-with-your-stress/