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Mental health: Towards a healthy workplace environment


As Tuesday, October 10, marks World Mental Health Day, the public has been advised to cultivate a lifestyle that can prevent mental illness. This includes getting adequate rest and sleep, eating healthy diets, physical exercise, and self-improvement through skill acquisition or knowledge. It is also essential to improve interpersonal relationships, associate with people that bring out the best in you, such as religious and social groups, taking vacations and spending quality time with family and friends.

Having a positive outlook about life is also vital, just as avoiding excessive drinking and smoking, and risky behaviours. There is also need to regulate salt, fatty foods and sugar intake, as these may precipitate physical illnesses that may predispose one to mental disorder. Undertaking regular medical check up also reduces risk of developing mental illness. 

Experts have suggested that once individuals suspect that symptoms look like that of mental disorder, they should seek medical intervention early.


Psychiatrists say mental illness is a medical condition like other chronic illnesses. It is treatable and individuals who present in the mental health facility can live normally and attain optimal quality of life.

They, however, advise that people diagnosed with mental illness should not be stigmatised. Rather, they deserve adequate and specialist care and attention, as they often do not know what is happening to them. So, there is need for family members and public to show love to people with the condition.

Dr. Olusegun Akinwotu, Senior Registrar at Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital (FNPH), Yaba, Lagos, said predisposing and environmental factors that may lead to mental illness include a family history of mental illness, adverse conditions in early years such as birth head trauma, infections affecting the brain, early separation from parents, poor living conditions, rape, war, famine, low socioeconomic status, drug abuse, personality disorder, unemployment, lack of a spouse, loss of close relatives or friends, loss of a job or loss of properties, national economic hardship such as economic recession, kidnapped victims and terrorism, among other factors.   

He said: “Developing mental illness involves interplay of such factors as genetic predisposition and adverse life events. The signs that a patient is tending towards developing mental disorder include, sudden or gradual distinct change in behaviour, poor sleep, easy irritability, deterioration in quality of academic or work performance and decline in hygiene.

“Others include, lack of concern about their progress and achievement, lack of concern about potentially dangerous situations, as well as, increased use of such psychoactive substances as cannabis, alcohol, cocaine and absenteeism from school or work with no tenable excuse. All these lifestyle habits indicate that a patient is close to developing mental illness.” 
To identify a case, he explained that family members should pay attention to everyone and take note of any change from their regular pattern of behaviour, especially adults, whose personalities are already formed.

“They should listen to their speech, if it’s irrelevant or becoming excessive or reduced, as well as observe their sleep pattern, appetite, actions and motivating factors. They can become paranoia and due to this refuse to eat meals cooked at home because of the mental illness. 

“So, the next step to take before a full-blown case is to seek the attention of a mental health specialist. This would aid early identification and intervention, which is a good prognosis for better management outcome. They can be taken to Federal neuropsychiatric hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), or Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), among other hospitals across the country”.

“I want to use this medium to appeal to the Federal legislators to expedite passage of the Mental Health Bill to facilitate easy access to mental health treatments by these clients. This would help the country reduce the number of people living with mental illness in the streets. The bill would give opportunity for government to take care of every person with mental illness in the country.”

Dr. Olamide Oluwaniyi, also with FNPH Yaba, said mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his/her community.

“The positive dimension of mental health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. But when an individual cannot live up to these expectations, it becomes mental disorder.

“Mental disorder can be heredity or genetics, which means that many mental illnesses run in families, suggesting they may be passed on from parents to children through genes. These contain instructions for function of each cell in the body and are responsible for how we look, act and think. However, just because your mother or father may have or had a mental illness does not mean you will have one. Heredity just means that you are more likely to get the condition than if you did not have an affected family member.

“Some mental illness have been linked to an abnormal balance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitter, which helps nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are out of balance or are not working properly, message may not make it through the brain correctly, leading to symptoms of mental illness. In addition, defects in or injury to certain areas of the brain also have been linked to some mental conditions, such as being involved in auto crash among others.

“Some mental illnesses may also be triggered by psychological trauma suffered as a child, such as severe emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, as well as a significant early loss, such as the loss of a parent (s) and neglect.

“Mental disorder induced by environmental stressors includes divorce, being single, a dysfunctional family life, changing job or school and substance abuse.”

He stated that this year’s theme: ‘Mental health in workplace’ is important, as many organisations don’t think about the mental health of their employees, especially in Nigeria.

“Workplace stress is associated with a significant adverse impact on emotional wellbeing and is linked with an increased risk of common mental disorder (CMDs),” he explained. “This review will elaborate on the relationship between workplace environment and psychiatric morbidity. The evidence for mental health promotion and intervention studies will be discussed. A case will be developed to advocate for workplace reform and research to improve mental health in workplaces in developing countries in order to improve the wellbeing of employees and workplace productivity.

“The interaction between mental illness and workplace environment is complex and multifaceted. CMDs have a negative impact on workplace productivity and adverse workplace environments are associated with a higher prevalence of CMDs.


“Studies thus far have only focused on mental health promotion and interventions to treat CMDs in the workplace, primarily in developed countries. However, by contrast, there are stark differences in workplace environment and standards in Nigeria. In the current era, greater attention is required to address the imbalance between workplace standards in Nigeria and other African countries. Advocacy and research in mental health promotion and interventions to address CMDs in the workplace setting in Nigeria is an urgent priority.”

Oluwaniyi said when illness is diagnosed early and treated properly; many people fully recover from their mental illness or are able to successfully control their symptoms. Although some people become disabled because of a chronic or severe mental illness, many others are able to live full and productive lives.

He said: “In fact, as many as eight in 10 people suffering from mental illness can effectively return to their normal activities, if they receive appropriate treatment.

Mental illness, like many chronic illnesses, requires ongoing treatment. Fortunately, much progress has been made in the last two decades in treating mental illnesses. As a result, many mental conditions can be effectively treated with one or a combination of such therapies as medication, psychotherapy and specific therapies, for instance, cognitive behaviour therapy among others.”


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