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Lately, the urgent need to tackle the growing burden of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are mentioned.

But a more scary hidden stigmatized, ruins lives and damages families, communities and society is the growing challenge of mental health globally.

Worldwide, an estimated billion suffer from anxiety, 300 million people are affected by depression, 60 million suffer from bipolar affective disorder, about 21 million are affected by schizophrenia or other severe psychoses and nearly 50 million people have dementia.



Challenges such as lack of resources and trained healthcare providers, inaccurate assessment and social stigma compound the problem of effectively addressing the mental health epidemic.

Suggestion to approach mental health first and foremost as a conversation is simple, but it provides a radical model for how we can start to approach mental health as a culture, certainly in schools, but also in the workplace.

Even the most assertive and successful employees find it difficult to state their needs and set boundaries at work.

Men have been trained to oblige and to accommodate the requests that come our way be it sincerely or no matter how tired we feel. But it does give an immense impact on our mental health.

The burden of self-care shouldn’t rest on individuals. There is so much to be gained from talking of mental health” particularly for those of us in leadership positions, whether in schools, community organizations, non-profits, big corporations, and beyond.

Mental health matters as much as physical health. Employers cannot separate the personal and the professional when it comes to employees.

In any working organization, we must recognize that any organization’s success depends on the mental health of the working teams, and help contribute to their well-being.

Burnout isn’t just regular old fatigue. It’s an acute state of stress and emotional fatigue that happens at work, and can easily spiral outward into depression and anxiety.

A recent study indicates that employees who experience burnout are less engaged, which isn’t surprising, given the brain’s emotional center is connected to the part of our brain that controls creativity and decision-making.

Organizations are advised to create an open dialogue at work, whether that’s through team events, discussion groups, and one-on-one lunches or coffee meetings. So far yet so near!

Though in our country it is not possible to encourage employees to take breaks, to leave early on occasion, to make time for exercise and family life, we still need to give these a try. (Am I joking or what?)

Other suggestions might be to implement innovative vacation policies that give your team more flexibility.

Most ‘office leaders’ doesn’t seem to show trust towards their own staff and none values the work of their subordinates.

Most employees spend more time with their employers than they do with their families.

Organization needs to show us how much you care about their health.

At times we must say no to other projects, after all our well beings should be taken care at first.

Don’t just tell your office staff that you care about their mental health. Encourage them to speak up. Show them empathy.

If an employee comes to you with a stress issue, make sure they feel they made the right choice to come to you.

We can help shed the stigma of mental health by leading by example, one case at a time.

Azizi Ahmad New Straits Times Opinion Letters February 19, 2018

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