Employers urged to promote wellness at workplace

October 08, 2019

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THE panel discussion under way at AKU on Monday.—White Star
THE panel discussion under way at AKU on Monday.—White Star

KARACHI: Employers do have a responsibility towards the (mental) health of their staff and one way to promote wellness in the workplace is to create forums where the staff could speak up and share their stresses.

This was suggested by experts at a panel discussion organised at the Aga Khan University (AKU) on Monday as part of the Mental Health Week being observed on the campus.

The topic of the discussion moderated by Dr Ayesha I. Mian, the chair of the department of psychiatry at the AKU, was ‘Wellness in the Workplace’.

Asked about the most common workplace stresses, Hiba Khan of Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) office of communications said one common stress colleagues and friends often shared with her was about not being appreciated enough despite doing a lot of work.

“This adds on to the pressures/challenges one is already experiencing in personal life, leading to loss of motivation and productivity,” she said.

Institutions should create an environment where the staff feel comfortable to share what they were experiencing, besides initiating team-building activities, she suggested.

Dr Asim Belgaumi, chief medical officer at the AKUH, Pakistan, talked about the “second victims” described as caregivers, such as nurses, who spent time taking care of patients more than doctors and developed a closer relationship.

“Every time a patient passes away, it does have an emotional impact. At times, there is a sense of guilt (that perhaps the life could have been saved with better care),” he remarked, suggesting that there should be forums where people could talk any time and vent their frustrations.

Reinforcing this point, he said that such coping mechanisms should be formalised.

Suicide deaths

It was pointed out in the programme that close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.

The rate of suicide among physicians, however, is more than double that of general population; an estimated 300 to 400 doctors kill themselves each year, a rate of 28 to 40 per 100,000. Twenty to thirty per cent of medical students suffer depression.

Experts suggested that thoughts of suicide could occur due to stress, anxiety and depression. It’s important that one should demonstrate compassion, empathy and extend emotional support to friends and colleagues experiencing troubled times instead of shying away from the situation.

Dean of the Medical College Dr Adil Haider was of the opinion that instead of asking for what others could do, “we should learn from the best example from amongst ourselves, avoid being judgmental and give others benefit of the doubt”.

On anxiety that comes with a leadership position, Shagufta Hassan, interim chief executive at the AKUH, said it’s important that “we don’t forget ourselves as we build up relationships and grow in career.

“Balance and discipline is the key. Learn to trust and let go,” she said, telling the audience that the AKU was planning to start professional mentorship programme.

Atia Naqvi, a senior clinical psychologist at the AKUH, emphasised that one should be true to one’s self, learn to listen to the heart (as well) and share whatever was “bothering once one finds a safe space”.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2019