12bn workdays lost yearly due to depression, anxiety: WHO

Published September 29, 2022
A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organisation during an executive board meeting on update on the Covid-19 outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland. — Reuters/File
A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organisation during an executive board meeting on update on the Covid-19 outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have called for concrete actions to address mental health concerns in the working population, saying that an estimated 12 billion workdays are lost annually due to depression and anxiety, costing the global economy nearly $1 trillion.

Two new publications, aimed at addressing the issue, were published on Wednesday, including WHO’s guidelines on mental health at work and a derivative WHO/ILO policy brief.

WHO’s global guidelines on mental health at work recommend actions to tackle risks to mental health such as heavy workloads, negative behaviours and other factors that create distress at work.

For the first time, WHO recommends manager training to build their capacity to prevent stressful work environments and respond to workers in distress.

WHO’s World Mental Health Report, published in June, showed that of the one billion people living with a mental disorder in 2019, 15pc of working-age adults experienced a mental disorder.

“It’s time to focus on the detrimental effect work can have on our mental health,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

A separate WHO/ILO policy brief explains the WHO guidelines in terms of practical strategies for governments, employers and workers, and their organisations, in the public and private sectors.

“As people spend a large proportion of their lives in work — a safe and healthy working environment is critical. We need to invest to build a culture of prevention around mental health at work, reshape the work environment to stop stigma and social exclusion, and ensure employees with mental health conditions feel protected and supported,” said ILO Director General Guy Ryder.

The report said Covid-19 triggered a 25pc increase in general anxiety and depression worldwide, exposing how unprepared governments were for its impact on mental health, and revealing a chronic global shortage of mental health resources.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2022

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