BY VANESSA GUZHA
Zimbabwe leads on mental health cases among workers, with the majority suffering depression due to paltry salaries that cannot sustain them in an inflationary environment, research has established.
A year-long research conducted by Zimbabwe Industrial Psychology Consultants (IPC) showed that over 40% of organisations in the country have seen an increase in reported mental health problems due to anxiety and depression mainly caused by slave wages.
IPC made the claims during a three day conference held by the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) in Harare between Wednesday and Friday.
The research also concluded that men were the majority of those suffering from mental health.
“Mental ill health experienced by the Zimbabwean workforce is much higher than what has been observed in other countries,” IPC said.
“About 55% of the respondents indicated that their mental wellbeing problems were due to poor remuneration, 25% from pressure of work, 10% from nepotism, 5% from racism and the remaining 5% from Zimbabwe’s current economic situation.”
A volatile economic environment in the country since the turn of the century has been a major cause of concern among Zimbabwean workers.
The closure of companies over the past two decades has also increased anxiety among workers, who fear losing their sources of income.
Workers with mental health problems have often been known for performing below their ability.
“Some have failed to control their lives because of feelings of hopelessness and this makes them feel worthless,” IPC said.
“Out of the 77 participants in the study, the findings revealed that 47 men never bothered to seek assistance, while 10 men sometimes sought assistance. However, 16 women never bothered to seek assistance, while only four women sometimes sought assistance.”
The director of the department of labour, Langton Ngorima, said most mental health problems were related to violence and harassment in the workplace that took physical, psychological and sexual forms.
“There are three dynamics in workplaces that are causing violence and harassment in offices. Some happen horizontally and this is between co-workers, some happen vertically and this is between supervisors and lastly, some are occurring through third parties and these are clients, customers or patients,” Ngorima said.
He said the majority of the victims that were suffering from mental illness due to violence and harassment were interns.
Ngorima said students, mostly female, ended up being preyed on because companies did not pay them and they do not have transport money. They have nowhere to report to because they also fear their internship being terminated.
“Most of the students do not have money for transport, money for lunch or various luxuries and, therefore, they are suffering because of that,” he said.
Sacrifice Chirisa, deputy director in the Health and Child Care ministry, said mental health programmes were missing in most corporate wellness programmes, because they were costly to most companies.
“Healthy working environments are key to maintaining a healthy and safe employee,” he said.