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Mental Health in the Workplace: Mental Health Awareness Month
Author: Dr. Haidee Williams
Published: 29/10/2020

Mental health disorders are among the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide. (1,2) Globally, it is estimated that 264 million people suffer from depression with many of these people also suffering with anxiety.(1)

A healthy (to the full extent of the word) workforce is essential for sustainable development and social wellbeing. 

Wellbeing is a keyword in the WHO definition of health: “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity" (3) 

Work is good for mental health (long term unemployment is associated with a two- fold increased risk of mental illness compared with employed people(4)) but a negative working environment can lead to both physical and mental health problems. (1) Mental health disorders can impact on the quality of work and work strain can negatively impact on mental health.

Workplace risk factors to mental health include:(1,2)

  • Inadequate health and safety policies
  • Poor communication and management policies
  • Low control over one's area of work
  • Low levels of support for employees
  • Inflexible working hours
  • Unclear tasks or objectives
  • Poor work design

The workplace is an efficient place to institute interventions to improve mental health and wellbeing, as communication structures and social support networks are already in place and available.(5)

​What can workplaces do to improve mental health amongst employees? (2)

  • Make a commitment to mental health
  • Create a culture of openness
  • Find ways to measure and report on wellbeing
  • Training on mental health for management and staff


What can staff do to improve their own mental health? (6)

  • Try to make working late the exception and not the norm
  • Create clear boundaries between work life and home life. This becomes especially crucial when working from home.
  • Build team cohesion by holding team activities e.g. a virtual team walk
  • Ask for help if feeling overwhelmed.

Contact Campus Health Service and speak to one of our clinical nursing practitioners or doctors for a depression/anxiety screening test and further treatment where necessary.
  • Stellenbosch Campus: 021 808 3496
  • Tygerberg Campus: 021 938 9590​



1.         WHO | Mental health in the workplace. WHO [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2020 Oct 15]; Available from:

2.         HOW TO PROMOTE MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPL ACE? [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 18]. Available from:

3.         Constitution [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 16]. Available from:

4.         BaticMujanovic O, Poric S, Pranjic N, Ramic E, Alibasic E, Karic E. Influence of Unemployment on Mental Health of the Working Age Population. Materia Socio Medica. 2017;29(2):92.

5.         Mental Health in the Workplace [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 15]. Available from:

6.         World Mental Health Day 2017 - The Facts [Infographic] | Advocacy Focus [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 18]. Available from: