Monday 16 September, 2019

Employees urged to do better on mental health issues

FILE - President of the Human Resource Association of Barbados (HRMAB), Shane Howell.

FILE - President of the Human Resource Association of Barbados (HRMAB), Shane Howell.

President of the Human Resource Management Association of Barbados (HRMAB), Shane Howell has said although the issue of mental health is being addressed more seriously by employers, employees still have a long way to go in ensuring that those with mental illnesses are not disadvantaged on the job.

Howell gave his assessment during an interview with Loop News where he said there has been an increased desire by members of the HRMAB on guidance to tackle mental health issues and the need to sensitise staff. He noted, employees specifically, needed to be more understanding of the plight of their peers who may be dealing with mental health issues.

“There is improvement but it is very slight. I think we still have a phenomenal distance to travel. Employers are taking it a bit more seriously … however at a peer level, I don’t think that there is sufficient understanding of mental health issues… [there's] a long way to travel for both but I think the employer is putting in more effort to sensitise.”

Howell said one of the challenges is the fact that mental health issues are so broad-based and can range from managing stress to serious illnesses such as bipolar disorder. He added because some HR practitioners are not skilled in identifying mental health issues, it may be difficult to address the issue before it becomes a major problem.

Howell went on to say companies tread carefully on issues of mental health when it comes to employees and are “very sensitive” about engaging in practices which can be deemed as discriminatory.

“They may ask certain questions to tease out if there are certain behaviours which many not be suited to the environment but it is not something that they would tackle directly.”

He said companies are doing more work, through employee assistance programs, to assist persons with mental health challenges with mitigating what challenges may arise on the job as opposed to taking premature or drastic steps such as termination.  

The Ministry of Health will be this week celebrating Mental Health Week which will include a panel discussion on Workplace Mental Health on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the National Union of Public Workers auditorium.

HRMAB will also be addressing the issue of mental health in the workplace during their 19th Annual Conference at the Radisson Aquatica Resort on October 19 and 20.

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