Johannesburg - Ahead of World Mental Health Day, the IDEA study of the London School of Economics and Political Science 2016 has found that depression costs South Africa more than R232 billion or 5.7 percent of the country's GDP due to lost productivity, either due to absence from work or attending work whilst unwell.
Dr Sebolelo Seape, chairperson of the Psychiatry Management Group (PsychMG), said that organisations and individuals alike needed to become more aware of the reality and impact that mental health has on the workplace.
“With more than 9.7 percent of the South African population, or 4.5 million to be exact, suffering from depression the chances are quite real that the person sitting next to you in the office is at some stage in their lives of coping with the condition," Seape said in a statement.
"It’s not only the duty of the individuals suffering from mental health issues but also organisations and colleagues to fight the stigma associated."
The World Mental Health Day is celebrated on 10 October and this year focuses on mental health in the workplace.
Seape said depression has a significant impact on productivity which in turn aggravates the resulting problems at work and relationship with colleagues and line-managers.
She said that the cost of presenteeism, those being at work whilst suffering from depression, has the most significant impact and equates to a loss of 4.23% of the country’s GDP and based on a world-wide study, the proportion lost to GDP is the highest in the world.
“In South Africa, employees are very likely to keep working during periods of depression, impacting their productivity and performance at work. This can be due to fear of losing their jobs, being ostracised from colleagues, or lack of mental health knowledge, not understanding why they are going through a spell of periods of not being well," Seape said.
"Even those who take a sick day here and there because they are not mentally up for it, are in essence self-diagnosing and their perceived coping mechanism will draw negative attention. In addition they could be losing out on the support structure offered by their employer, putting their career and relationship with colleagues at risk."
Seape said workplace attitudes which promotes acceptance and openness about depression would have a significant impact on improving workplace productivity whilst openness and support from managers will in turn foster a socially acceptance attitude towards those suffering from depression.
(Edited by: Devereaux Morkel)