WHILE the article in the Belfast Telegraph, 'Council employees offered counselling courses, but is it all just mumbo-jumbo?' (News, January 29) focused on a particular set of courses being offered to council employees, it did raise the important issue of mental health and wellbeing.
Emotional wellbeing is traditionally something which people have been reticent to talk about, but that inclination to 'bottle it up' can often have an even greater negative impact.
The most recent statistics on civil service absence showed the main reason for absence was anxiety/stress/depression/other psychiatric illnesses. The proportion of working days lost due to illnesses of this type was 29.8% – one-third of which were due to work-related stress. This finding highlights that the emotional wellbeing of workers is something we, as a society, need to take seriously.
The Public Health Agency has been working with Business in the Community and the Health and Safety Executive to bring together key people from business, government, and the community and voluntary sectors to discuss the challenges of promoting good mental health at work. It is easy to dismiss moves by employers to promote mental health, but if we are to get to grips with the issue of stress and depression in workers, not to mention productivity, it is essential to face up to the prevalence of mental ill-health in our society – and do something about it.
Public Health Agency