The economic impact of mental health conditions has come into sharp focus, revealing staggering losses that are reverberating across the globe.
According to recent data, mental health issues are costing the global economy a mind-boggling US$1.5trillion in lost productivity every year. In Ghana, a nation already grappling with its own mental health crisis, the toll is alarming.
Currently, 21 percent of adults in the country are experiencing moderate to severe psychological distress resulting in a productivity loss equivalent to 7 percent of GDP – indicating the widespread impact mental health challenges are having on the economy and workforce.
It is in this light that experts at the 2023 EAP Africa Summit have emphasised an urgent need for comprehensive mental health support systems, within both workplaces and the broader healthcare infrastructure.
This 4th edition of the EAP Africa Summit that came off in Accra was themed ‘Making EAP culturally relevant to boost well-being, productivity and fiscal outcome: a Pan African perspective’.
Employee Assistance Services: a crucial organisational resource
Dan Boissoneault, President-Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) International, stressed the importance of organisations investing in Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP).
He said EAPs play a vital role in supporting work organisations and their employees in various aspects of mental health and wellbeing with their services – encompassing a range of functions including referral of employee clients for diagnosis, treatment and assistance, as well as case monitoring and follow-up services.
“The immediacy of global conflicts, weather changes and organisational transitions can significantly impact employees, their families and communities. EAPs recognise the workplace’s importance as a motivator and a space where solutions can be found.”
By saving jobs, EAPs not only save lives but also contribute to the well-being of communities. The power to effect change lies in the hands of EAP professionals who, armed with core technologies and connections, can bring about meaningful impact,” he said.
He urged organisations to champion the subject matter, and explore the services and collaboration of EAPs to help navigate challenges and manage the well-being of their employees.
Managing Director-Supreme Healthcare Management Services and EAP-Africa (Subsidiary) in Ghana, Patience Osekre, said with mental health conditions impacting one in four individuals worldwide, the need to prioritise mental wellbeing has never been more urgent.
She revealed that in a bid to improve the accessibility and scope of mental health resources, Supreme Healthcare Management Services and KPMG have partnered to unveil the Authentic Caring Employer Award (ACE) – an initiative that aims to celebrate and elevate excellence in workplace mental health practice, with the goal of creating mentally healthy workplaces which support sustainable success.
She said despite the growing awareness surrounding mental health, there is still a long way to go in terms of destigmatising the issue.
“Employees often hesitate to discuss their mental health openly, due to fear of judgment and misunderstanding. This was highlighted in a recent training session where an employee posed the question, “At what point will mental health be taken seriously in our society? It is clear that a shift in mindset and a transformation of the approach to workplace mental health is essential,” she said.
“The ACE initiative, along with its upcoming event on 18Th November 2023 at The Marriott Hotel Accra, aims to address this pressing issue and raise awareness about the importance of mental health issues in the workplace,” she added.
Acting Deputy Development Director and Head of Cross-Cutting Team at the British High Commission in Ghana, Dan Humble, on his part shared his outfit’s new well-being strategy. A strategy that focuses on six key themes: preventing harm; promoting mental health; creating a supportive culture; developing capabilities; leadership; and evaluation.
With an emphasis on continuous improvement, he stressed the need for organisations to address mental health issues and support their employees’ well-being effectively.
Distinguished speakers and experts presented case studies, presentations and success stories, highlighting innovative approaches adopted by organisations across Africa, with topics like ‘Setting Global Standards in Workplace Wellbeing; Tailoring Mental Wellbeing Support for every Generation at work: From Boomers to Gen Z’, among others.
Panel discussions facilitated in-depth conversations on topics ranging from mental health stigma to integrating traditional healing practices into modern EAP frameworks.
The summit was an eye-opener, as it gave opportunities for participants to contribute and participate in Q&A sessions.
At the 2023 EAP Africa Summit, the ACE (Authentic Caring Employer) Awards were officially announced. This new initiative, the first of its kind in Africa, seeks to recognise employers or organisations across Ghana which prioritise the well-being of their employees; take the Duty of Care seriously; and have robust and well-established processes in place to support the mental and physical health of employees.
The awards will serve as a call to action for organisations to prioritise mental health support and implement effective EAPs. The ACE Awards are also a concrete step toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDGs 3, 8 and 17 – Good Health and Well-being, Decent Work and Economic Growth, and Partnership for the Goals.
By awarding promoters of good mental health in the workplace, the ACE Awards will help to create a healthier and more productive workforce – which will ultimately benefit society and boost socio-economic development.
The slogan for the ACE Awards is ‘Celebrating excellence in workplace mental wellbeing’, and it will take place on November 18, 2023. Nominations are open from October 5, 2023 to November 10, 2023.