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Mental health of workers to increase productivity at workplace is emphasized at BILS-Sajida Foundation seminar

Giving importance on paying more attention to mental health at workplace and in the family, speakers at a seminar mentioned that workers’ productivity is affected when they do not receive any support and cooperation there. They mentioned this at a seminar titled “Invest in Workforce Mental Health” jointly organised by BILS and Sajida Foundation on October 10, 2020 at Mawlana Akhram Kha Hall National Press Club, Dhaka. The seminar was organised for marking the World Mental Health Day 2020 in collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation.

Objective the seminar was to discuss the importance and necessity of mental health, raising awareness among all and formulating recommendations on its promotion and dissemination at all levels including the workplace.

Pointing out in the keynote paper at the seminar about the importance of mental health at workplace, Sajida Foundation Senior Manager and Clinical Psychologist Rubina Jahan said, 17% of adults in the country are facing mental health problem, which is more prevalent among women. She added that 92% of people suffer from mental health problems for which they usually do not seek any treatment. Mental problems like depression are more prevalent in physical disability and unemployment. Mentioning “Mental health is a common and growing issue at workplace,” she said, adding that there is a shortage among service providers in line with the population of Bangladesh. She mentioned, Psychiatrists are needed for solving the problem of clinical and mental disorders. For this, it is needed to create Para-councils and awareness rising, she added. “We have to increase the trained and capable manpower if we want to solve the problem at the initial stage”, she mentioned adding that there is also a need to raise awareness at all levels besides encouraging investment in public health issues in public and private initiatives.

In his inaugural address BILS Secretary General and Executive Director Nazrul Islam Khan, said that mental health is important not only for working people but also for all. Underscoring that working people have various mental problems, he said, occupational diseases are mentioned in the labour law in Bangladesh and there are many diseases mentioned in the list responsible for the sufferings of the workers while going to work. He also said it is not unnatural for the workers to be affected by the environment and the condition where they work and live. He said, if not resist, abuse of authority and co-workers in the workplace, sexual harassment, bad habits, etc. may affect workers mental health. An effective solution to this problem is possible through joint ventures, he added.

Noting the importance of women’s mental health, Tawhida Shiropa, Founder and CEO of Moner Bandhu, a platform to provide care for mental health and well-being service, said, it is time to focus on mental health at workplace. Harassment at workplace, frustration, etc. can have a serious effect on mental health that requires mental health friendly environment to solve the problem. She said, in the RMG industry the issue of mental health needs to be addressed through recreation. Awareness needs to be raised in solving personal and family issues. This requires a change of perspective at all levels, she added.

Executive Director of Innovation for Wellbeing Foundation and Country Leader of Mental Health First Aid Bangladesh Monira Rahman said, mental problems are not just a doctor or psychiatrist treatment, but multi-stakeholder approach is needed for this. The problem is at an early stage, which can only be solved by changing the lifestyle. It needs to be identified at an early stage, she added mentioning that some people try to avoid mental problems because of social stigma. Referring the Global data, she said, 1 in 4 people suffers from mental health problems. Noting that no one is out of mental health problems, she said not only workers, but also those in charge of management suffer from mental health problems. Mentioning that peer support is very important in solving mental health problems at the individual level, she said that there is no specific policy on mental health in Bangladesh. Referring to the training on mental health, she added that by taking training on mental health first aid, one can identify problems and solve one’s own problems.

Speaking as special guest, Chairman of BGMEA’s Standing Committee on Health Hanifur Rahman Lotus said, most of the workers who make the world’s first standard garments through RMG industry live in slum area. Most of them do not have institutional education. Not only with the machine, workers also fight with the family, relatives, society and on the way. In this case, the employers are implementing activities to solve the mental health problems of the workers out of their own responsibility. BGMEA is also working on telemedicine, through which workers are counseled about their physical and mental health. He also said, BGMEA has already been working on nutrition, reproductive health, etc. of the workers. Mentioning the importance of this in productivity, he said, if someone invests 1 taka in the health of the workers, he will get a return of 15-17 taka in productivity. There is an opportunity to work on it in the future, he added.

Fakir Apparels Ltd. Senior Executive (HRAC) Manjurul Karim said, “I had the opportunity to participate in training on Workplace Wellbeing Management, a joint venture of UCEP Bangladesh and Sajida Foundation in collaboration with SNV. As we have seen, women workers are worried about their families. Therefore, family worries also affect their workplace”. He said, Mental Counseling Corner has been set up at Fakir Apparels Ltd., where 4/5 workers seek mental health counseling every day. “We are regularly counseling the workers. As a result, the rate of absence of workers in the workplace is decreasing. Such good initiatives need to be started not only by Fakir Apparels, but also by other factories. It can be implemented in all workplaces, not small or large” he shared.

In his closing remarks SNV Netherlands Development Organization Inclusive Business Advisor Jamal Uddin said that mental health is not just an issue of workers or employers, it is a national issue. But mental health is becoming less important than physical health. We need to work together and seriously on mental health issues, he mentioned.

This is to be mentioned that World Mental Health Day has been celebrated around the world since 1992. It is celebrated on October 10 every year. Mental health is very important in today’s society, family, personal life and work. The global outbreak of the corona virus is affecting people’s livelihoods, health, medicine, industry, production, economy and everything else. Corona has had a devastating effect on mental health in all classes of people. Knowing and practicing mental health is important for everyone in family life, and it plays a role in maintaining a positive impact on productivity and strengthening industrial relations by formulating policies and guidelines in the workplace and implementing related activities. The issue of mental health is now being seriously considered at all levels.