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Depression and Anxiety: The Importance of Mental Health check at Workplace

Mental Health issue is a very sensitive topic especially in the workplace. We work for almost 40 hours per week from Monday to Friday, which leaves us very little time for our family.  Factors such as work stress and conflict situations at work is no longer an uncommon factor that contributes to  stress and at times, even leading to depression. As such, it is important to keep our  mental health in check, so that we can take the necessary steps to get better. This forum, hosted by Qualitas Medical Group was very much an eye-opener for me and presented us with many interesting insights and things that we should take note of.

Being a mother myself who needs to juggle work, my kids and everything in between, this forum has put a lot of things in perspective for me. 

(L-R) An insightful panel discussion on the importance of taking positive steps to ensure employees are well taken care of at the workplace took place together with industry experts including Dr Shawaludin Husin, Vice President, Malaysian Society of Occupational Safety and Health (“MSOSH”),  Puan Sarah Waheeda Muhammad Hafidz, Consultant, Industrial and Occupational Psychology, Leadernomics, Dr Puspamary Matthews, Family Medicine Specialist & Occupational Health Doctor, Qualitas Medical Group and Mr A. Balasubramaniam, Deputy Secretary General, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (“MTUC”).
In efforts to address the rising number of mental health issuesin Malaysia, homegrown and leading primary healthcare provider Qualitas Medical Group (‘Qualitas’) organised this form and the forum also saw a panel session which initiated robust discussions on mental health at the workplace. Themed, “Mental Health at the Workplace: The Unspoken Truth”, the session was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Health, Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), the Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health (MSOSH) as well as Third Party Administrators, corporate and industrial leaders.

(L-R) Mr Karim Dhala, Director of Corporate Services, Qualitas Medical Group, Ybhg. Dr Koh Kar Chai, Honorary General Treasurer, Malaysian Medical Association (“MMA”), YB Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Minister Women, Family and Community Development, Ybhg. Dato Dr Noorul Ameen Mohamed Ishack, Chairman and Managing Director, Qualitas Medical Group and Ybhg. Dato Dr R.S Kumar, Chairman of Medical Governance Board, Qualitas Medical Group officiating a forum themed, ‘Mental Health at The Workplace: The Unspoken Truth’.

The event was officiated by Yang Berhormat Puan Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development. In her keynote speech, Yang Berhormat Puan Hannah Yeoh emphasised the pressing need to reduce the stigma on mental health issues within the community and the important role that general practitioners can play as the first line of care on mental health.

Ybhg. Dato Dr Noorul Ameen Mohamed Ishack, Chairman and Managing Director, Qualitas Medical Group giving his opening remarks at forum held today themed, ‘Mental Health at The Workplace: The Unspoken Truth’
Delivering a keynote address at the session, Chairman and Managing Director of Qualitas Medical Group, Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Dr Noorul Ameen Mohamed Ishack said, “Mental health has been extensively discussed by key authorities, non-profit organisations for many years. Sadly, individuals suffering from depression and anxiety are reluctant to seek help as they fear the stigma of being stereotyped. The time has come for immediate practical actions to be taken by all stakeholders – The general practitioners should be empowered to play a more active and positive role in the management of mental health wellness; and for that, changes need to be made by the Government in empowering general practitioners to act as the gatekeeper on mental health.”

While depression and anxiety pose a mental health challenge for sufferers, these issues also have a significant economic impact on the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) this year, depression and anxiety is estimated to cost the global economy approximately US$1 trillion per year in lost productivity. As businesses thrive on optimum productivity, it is beneficial to both employers and employees to prioritise the wellbeing of employees.

In 2017, a study conducted by AIA Bhd titled “Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality” reported that 12% of employees have high level of anxiety and depressive symptoms. A follow up survey in 2018 further revealed that 50.2% of employees have at least one dimension of work-related stress. This worrying trend poses a challenge for individuals, companies and society in Malaysia which can have tremendous repercussions if left unaddressed.

Dr Shawaludin Husin, Vice President, Malaysian Society of Occupational Safety and Health shared“Prevention measures for accidents and injuries that affect one’s physique is no longer sufficient but we need to manage how stress, depression and other mental issues would lead to unforeseen mishaps in the workforce. Thus, organisations need to urgently look into effective safety and health management system and policies that ensures the overall wellbeing, which may include initiatives such as mindfulness training, financial planning, on-the-hour flash walk, among others.”

Primary Healthcare Personnel As The First Line Of Care
In Malaysia, primary healthcare personnel – general practitioners (GPs) have been the first contact for people seeking healthcare. As most GP clinics are well spread out in the neighbourhoods nationwide, the GPs have traditionally been regarded by society as the first line of care.

“Primary healthcare needs to evolve, equipping its workforce with the right knowledge, confidence and capacity to provide mental health support, now more than ever. With primary healthcare practitioners onboard, I am certain that employees will feel less stereotyped and more open to receiving treatment in the early stages. This would greatly improve the mental health outlook in Malaysia, contributing to a positive community, workforce and the nation’s economy”, said Pn Sarah Waheeda Muhammad Hafidz, Consultant Industrial and Occupational Psychologist from Leaderonomics.

“Over the years, many patients have come to the GP clinics complaining of frequent migraine, insomnia, fatigue and impaired concentration. These patients may or may not realise that they are suffering from anxiety and depression. Coupled with the stigma attached to mental health wellness issues, these patients are often reluctant to be seen as visiting mental health professionals. Sufferers are looking to primary healthcare personnel for their needs – As such, we as primary healthcare practitioners need to be empowered, upskilled and be prepared to meet these requirements,” added Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Dr Noorul Ameen Mohamed Ishack.
Today, the role of the primary healthcare is required to shift beyond merely supporting physical wellbeing to becoming the first line of assistance for mental health issues. More and more, the primary healthcare workforce will need to be empowered with the right knowledge, confidence and capacity to provide first line mental health support for patients in their time of need.

The panel session was organised by Qualitas as part of its commitment to continue to provide integrated healthcare within the primary healthcare sector. 

Work life balance is one of the key steps to take to achieve a positive state of mind, and it is important for organisations to implement measures to ensure that employees are well-taken care of in terms of their mental wellbeing within the workplace. 

A good work-life balance for employees can improve staff motivation, increase staff retention rates, reduce absence, attract new talent, and reduce employee stress, which creates a more conducive work environment.  

As a working mum myself, it is very important to create a balance between work-life and plan my personal time accordingly. We all feel stressed at some point in time, be it due to personal or work reasons and this definitely will affect our mental health. When we feel stressed or anxious, it’s important to take time-out for ourselves, or share our concerns and unease with a loved one or a close friend for emotional support and advice.

This forum has indeed been an eye-opener for me, reminding me to take proactive steps to balance my worklife and personal time to ensure that I am able to spend more time with my family and beloved kids. 

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