Mental health is recognised as the totality of the psychological, socio-economic, emotional and physical well-being of the individual. Accordingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognised mental health to be the state of guaranteed level of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with what is believed to be the normal stresses of life, can be fruitfully and productively engaged, and at the same time, be in a good stead to make more robust and meaningful contributions to his place of work and community at large.
A robust mental health condition puts under its enclosure the notion of the average individual’s ability to cope with what is normally termed the daily stress usually encountered at the workplace, still be in proper and balanced stead to accomplish the daily assigned corporate tasks, and still preserve the frame of mind to achieve his or her personal tasks.
The mental health conditions of the average worker, just as it relates to the totality of the Nigerian population, is a vexing issue clouded with abject and total neglect. Mental health conditions of the average Nigerian worker is a segment of the total well-being of this portion of the population that is submerged in the nonchalant attitude of the various arms of governance in Nigeria as a nation.
Mental Health Legislations in Nigeria:
The current mental legislation in Nigeria, Lunacy Act 1958, derives from the Lunacy Ordinance of 1916. This law is better described as a law in antiquity, as it uses pejorative words like lunatics and idiots, does not mention treatment of persons with disabilities, and has no provision for the mental wellness of Nigerian workers. It is deprived of any provisions and recognition of patients’ confidentiality and enforcement of the basic human rights of people suffering from mental and psychosocial disorders. This present law must be repealed because it is inconsistent with the current realities in the Nigerian health sector and averse to the global mental health standards set by the World Health Organization for the attainment of minimal ranges within different country specifics. Nigeria needs country-specific mental health legislation that is need-based and human rights driven, to cater for the undisclosed but teeming proportions of her population discreetly suffering from mental health disorder.
Mental Health Challenges at the Workplace:
As earlier stated, the overall mental health of the Nigerian worker is an embodiment of the workers’ socio-economic, psychological, emotional, physical and to an extent, the workers’ spiritual well-being. Several factors impact the mental health of workers in Nigeria. Amongst these factors, the most pertinent are as follows:
- Poor working environment.
- Excessive workload, which burns out the workers easily.
- Constant threats that threaten the job security of the workers.
- Low wages that are not in any measure commensurate with the workers’ level of productivity.
- Lack of balance between the office affairs and the domestic responsibilities of the workers, with the official responsibilities overwhelming the domestic values of the workers.
- Lack of well-planned health care regime that oversees the physical and mental well-being of the workers.
- Lack of harmonious and cordial relations that cut across the workers and the management.
- Constant depression of the workers that range beyond the acceptable stress levels.
- Constantly feeling let-down and unappreciated on the part of the workers.
- Domestic financial concerns of the workers-worries about bills to be paid.
Anxiety and stress are indirectly linked to the poor financial conditions of the workers and these to a great extent impact on the mental health of the workers.
Signs of adverse mental health conditions at the workplace
Good workplace management coupled with a robust mental health regimen enhances workers productivity, this is a panacea to low productivity. But where these are not put in place for the benefit of the workers, the management suffers with the attendant low productivity of the workforce. The early warning signs of adverse mental health conditions at the workplace are made manifest by the prevalence of some these signs on and by the workers:
- Display of low energy and tiredness at work by the workers.
- Display of negative behavioural changes such as frequent smoking and drinking while on duty.
- Inexcusable absenteeism from work.
- Making constant errors, distractions with the subsequent difficulties in concentration on the job.
- Display of noticeable anxiety disorders and difficulty to multi-task by the average worker.
- Routine time management becoming such a difficult task to adhere to by the workers.
- When there is a noticeable low level or total lack of communication and social interactions between workers and management.
- Display of frequent actions of sleeping while on duty and extreme mood changes by a large percentage of the workforce at odd hours and while on duty.
Coping with mental health challenges at the workplace.
Every worker is engaged for productivity at the maximum levels. Where and when there are displays of adverse mental health conditions at the workplace, the management should immediately engage in the reversal of such situations and conditions to avert what could eventually, if left unattended, consume the main purpose of the establishment. Some suggested actions that reverse the adverse mental health conditions at the workplace include but are not limited to these steps:
- The average worker at all times should be encouraged to talk about his or her feelings with other colleagues and to an extent, engage with the management.
- At the appointed intervals, workers that are due, should be advised to take their annual leaves.
- Good and conducive working environment and the provision of adequate working tools should be within the reach of the workers.
- Workload of the workers should be within the office/industrial ranges. The average worker should be encouraged to concentrate on what he or she knows how to do best, with provisions for further training.
- There is the necessity for the provision of adequate healthcare facilities to enhance the mental balance of the workers at all times and levels.
- Job security should be assured to the workers. It is illegal for an employee to discriminate against an employer based on his or her poor mental health or disorder.
- The employers should at all times, appreciate their workers and make them feel valued. Let stress translate to satisfaction on the part of the workers.
- The employers should also put in place measures to abort or reduce in totality workplace bullying and undue rancour within the rank and file of their workforce’
It is widely encouraged the adoption of workplace task management software to help in the tracking of individual and official tasks, this measure when put alongside proper time management training, ensures that tasks are completed on time and keeps the entire workforce better organized.
A sound mind in a sound body is the template for robust mental health care at the workplace. The state of the mental health of the average worker is the measure of the level of his or her productivity. But sadly enough, mental health care in Nigeria is accorded no vibrant place in the overall primary health care plans and budget of either the government or the private employers of labour. The time is now for the Government at all levels in Nigeria, including the organized private sectors to come up with comprehensive health care plans that would validly accommodate specifically, mental health care for the interest and welfare of the Nigerian workers.
- W H O definition of mental health, source: The International Encyclopedia of Public Health (second edition), 2017.
- The Lunacy Act of 1916, was later transformed into law in 1958.
- National Health Act, 2014.
- World Health Organization -WHO Guidelines on mental health at work, @ https://www. who. int > Health topics< assessed on firstname.lastname@example.org