World Mental Health Day

Theme for 2017 – Mental Health in the Work Place

This year’s World Mental Health Day on October 10 carries the theme “Mental Health in the Work Place”. Are you aware that about 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression? Joanna Lee finds out how workplace mental health issues could affect us all

Mental health issues remain a taboo topic among people in general. Like the elephant in the room, it deserves awareness so that our affected friends and loved ones can get the help they need. In Malaysia, there has been a 50% increase in depressed patients between 2011 and 2016, according to the Malaysian Psychiatric Association’s research. Bipolar disorder cases were at 3% in 2013 but that number is rising. By 2020, it is predicted that depression will be a major mental health illness among Malaysians.

Repercussions for productivity are serious because mental health issues at the workplace can lead to a lower quality of life, affect daily functioning and reduce the likelihood of employment, leading to a greater likelihood of productivity loss as well as greater healthcare and welfare costs.

Mental health is defined by WHO as a state of well-being where each individual realises their potential, is able to cope with regular life stressors, work productively and contribute to their community.

  • The 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey showed that about one third of the Malaysian population, or 29% had depression and anxiety disorder compared to 12% in 2011!
  • 59% of people with depression also have anxiety.
  • About one in 10 people have taken time off work for depression, taking an average of 36 days per episode.
  • Depression costs employers €54 billion in the EU, €37 billion in the US and €7.5 billion in Australia.
  • In Kessler’s study (2009) an average of 51 days of productivity were lost in Japan due to mental health issues, 48.7 days in China, and 136 days in the US.

  • The gains made by improved productivity at work can offset the treatment costs for depression by 45% to 98%
  • Madalyn Parker’s email requesting for time off to tend to her mental health went viral thanks to her boss’ supportive stance. Will this happen in Malaysia and other Asian countries?

What can we do?

  • Invest in public awareness and healthcare professional training so people with depression are accurately diagnosed
  • Improve access to depression and mental health care
  • Don’t minimise or ridicule them by saying “everyone feels sad too”, “it’s all in your head” or “why do you think such stupid things” – listen to their heart and encourage them to seek help.


Counselling help contacts:

  • The Befrienders (03-7956 8144 / 03-7956 8145) – If you need someone to talk to anonymously.
  • Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (03-7950 2460) – For 24-hour emergencies.
  • List of counselling centres around Malaysia compiled by Malaysian Mental Health Association –  ources/directory-of-councelling-services/

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