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Mental health ‘must be a major concern’

marciadottin, [email protected]

Mental health ‘must be  a major  concern’

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The toll job cuts have on the mental health of Barbadians who remain on the job while there is restructuring, wage freezes and likelihood of further job losses is not being fully taken into account.
This view came from Psychiatrist Dr Sharon Harvey in a presentation on The Impact Of An Economic Crisis On The Mental Health Of The Workforce yesterday at the second seminar held as part of the Week Of Excellence activities.
Harvey said quite often when discussing the economic crisis, the focus was on the effects on persons who were unemployed as a result.
However, the important burden for the employees remaining on the job was often not recognised or spoken about.
She said, “Employees have to cope with job insecurity. In this day and age one cannot be sure about anything and employees feel that very much in terms of what is going to happen next.”
She noted that with restructuring measures taking place in the workplace often led to fear, in addition to increased workloads as remaining staff were expected to maintain the same level of production with fewer employees.
“There is still the expectation of a certain amount of output, leading to rising stress and a higher sense of work intensity,” Harvey said.
She said some  employees were physically or psychologically ill, but still reporting for work though not being able to perform effectively in a clear case of presenteeism.  
“They feel if I dare take sick leave . . . I may be someone [the company] no longer needs.  They may also feel compelled to put in the additional hours to deal with the extra work loads to keep their jobs,” she said.
Harvey noted that unemployed people faced pressures from the loss of a steady salary and they often become prone to depression and suicidal thoughts if unable to meet their financial obligations.  She said as a result, their physical and mental health suffered.
Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer Suckoo, who addressed the gathering, said the Labour Department through  legislation and a decent work agenda would ensure that workers were not exploited. However, she said workers had to ensure they did their best with tasks to which they were assigned. “Now is the time for every worker, every manager every employer to realise that until we are ensuring the growth of our individual workplaces we are not a part of the solution to the challenges that we face,” Byer Suckoo said.
She said though many might not agree with the Government’s 19-month recovery programme, it was a part of efforts to find a solution to the economic situation.  
“Yes, retrenchments are a part of that . . . a painful prescription, and like surgery it hurts, even while there is healing going on, on the inside,” she said. (LK)