Make mental resilience part of work environment

Office workers crossing a street in Robinson Road.
Office workers crossing a street in Robinson Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

With mental well-being and burnout being in the spotlight in recent months, it is encouraging to know that organisations, such as the National University Health System (NUHS), are looking into the mental well-being of its employees.

Burnout is becoming an irrefutable reality of working life. The International Labour Organisation describes stress as a "silent killer", while the World Health Organisation recognises burnout as an occupational phenomenon in its International Classification of Diseases.

Meanwhile, Singapore was recently ranked 32nd out of 40 countries for work-life balance and No. 2 in terms of work intensity.

Having experienced and overcome burnout myself on at least three occasions, I have learnt many valuable life lessons and grown from each episode.

Burnout affects a worker's physical and mental health, family, relationships and employability. It can happen to the most well-intentioned and even the top-performing employees of an organisation.

Dealing with burnout can help prevent mental health challenges. Research has shown how burnout can lead to depression and many other mental health conditions.

As a nation, we can reduce the incidence of people experiencing mental health challenges when we start helping them to thrive at work. According to the second Singapore Mental Health Study in 2016, one in seven people in Singapore has experienced a mood, anxiety or alcohol use disorder in his or her lifetime.

Since we spend a large part of our waking hours at work, mental well-being intervention programmes at work, such as the one being implemented by NUHS, make great sense.

On the whole, organisations can do more than hold the occasional mental well-being talks and programmes.

I applaud employers which are making the effort to build mental resilience at the individual and organisational levels. As they say, an organisation is as healthy as its people.

James Lim Soon Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2019, with the headline 'Make mental resilience part of work environment'. Print Edition | Subscribe