Forum: Firms should work with social service agencies to address staff's mental health needs

There have been numerous calls recently to address mental health at the workplace in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis (Call for bosses to foster positive conversations on mental health, Nov 19). The Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being at Workplaces is a step in the right direction and timely (New tripartite advisory sets out steps to tackle mental health needs of workers, Nov 17).

While the worsening of mental health at the workplace was exacerbated by Covid-19, it was a concern even before Covid due to the frenetic tech-driven 24/7 pace of modern work life, and will no doubt continue beyond Covid. We hope that companies will take the advisory seriously and act quickly to put in place the recommended work practices to support their employees' mental well-being.

One good way for companies to get up to speed on this is to work with the many community-based mental health social service agencies (SSAs) here. These SSAs are able to give talks, conduct workshops and training on a range of suitable topics, and even organise creative therapy sessions to build up mental resilience. Some can also provide counselling services and a confidential channel for questions on mental health manned by professionals.

Unlike activities initiated by companies independently, a well-structured, long-term partnership with a mental health SSA will be more holistic, effective and sustainable.

The SSAs also benefit by becoming more aware of mental health issues at the workplace, which will help them develop public messages and introduce appropriate preventive measures.

If properly implemented, such programmes would lead to greater mental resilience, a more supportive work environment, perhaps also reduced stigma on mental illness. Not least, too, a decrease in lost productivity due to mental health issues, which the World Health Organisation has projected to be US$1 trillion (S$1.34 trillion) annually at the global level.

Francis Yeoh (Dr)

President, Singapore Association for Mental Health

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