Publication Date

January 2000


[From Introduction] Mental health problems are among the most important contributors to the global burden of disease and disability. Of the ten leading causes of disability worldwide, five are psychiatric conditions: unipolar depression, alcohol use, bipolar affective disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The burden of mental disorders on health and productivity throughout the world has long been profoundly underestimated.2 The impact of mental health problems in the workplace has serious consequences not only for the individuals whose lives are influenced either directly or indirectly, but also for enterprise productivity. Mental health problems strongly influence employee performance, rates of illnesses, absenteeism, accidents, and staff turnover.

The workplace is an appropriate environment in which to educate and raise individuals' awareness about mental health problems. For example, encouragement to promote good mental health practices, provide tools for recognition and early identification of the symptoms of problems, and establish links with local mental health services for referral and treatment can be offered. The need to demystify the topic and lift the taboos about the presence of mental health problems in the workplace while educating the working population regarding early recognition and treatment will benefit employers in terms of higher productivity and reduction in direct and in-direct costs. However, it must be recognised that some mental health problems need specific clinical care and monitoring, as well as special considerations for the integration or reintegration of the individual into the workforce.