Published 8 June 2020, The Daily Tribune

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally, while about 45 million and 20 million people are affected by bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, respectively. These striking figures and the significant burden placed by mental illness on all aspects of society have made it imperative for governments to develop mental health programs.

In the Philippines, the Mental Health Act took effect on 5 July 2018. The law essentially aims to promote the mental health of the population and improve mental health care services through a comprehensive and coordinated approach. As part of this approach, the law underscores the importance of promoting the mental well-being of workers. It specifically mandates employers “to develop appropriate policies and programs on mental health in the workplace designed to raise awareness on mental health issues, correct the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health conditions, provide support for individuals at risk and facilitate access of those with mental health conditions to treatment and psychological support.”

In line with this, on 11 February 2020, the Department of Labor and Employment issued Department Order (DO) 208, series of 2020, to provide employers and workers in the private sector with guidance on how to formulate and implement a comprehensive mandatory workplace mental health policy and program (MHPP). Section IV of DO 208 prescribes the following components and implementation strategies of the MHPP:

Advocacy, information, education and training

The employers have the responsibility to provide all workers with basic information and education on mental health. Standard basic information and education include, among others: understanding mental health and its impact in the workplace and workforce; identification and management of mental health problems in the workplace; and salient features of the Mental Health Act.

Employers must also ensure that they provide the necessary training to the personnel who will develop, implement and monitor the MHPP. The advocacy, information, education and training activities may be extended to the workers’ families and communities to strengthen approaches in the prevention of stigma and discrimination and to better understand individuals with mental health conditions.

Promotion and enhancement of workers’ well-being

The MHPP must promote and enhance the workers’ well-being to have healthy and productive lives through the following recommendations, among others:

1.) Increasing workers’ awareness on mental health and other common conditions like depression, anxiety and substance abuse including alcohol (ex. distributing leaflets, workshops, posters);

2.) Promotion of healthy lifestyle and work-life balance;

3.) Identification and management of work-related stress and stressors, including interpersonal issues with superiors, subordinates, co-employees, clients and customers;

4.) Effective management of changes in the work organization and utilization of human resource systems (e.g. addressing burnout, review of workload);

5.) Establishing mental health programs to support workers (e.g. recreational activities);

6.) Workers achievements and efforts recognition program;

7.) Psychological support in management of disaster and extreme life events; and

8.) Capacity building of managers and human resource personnel in the identification and management of workers with mental health problems.

To be continued.

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