New data reveals SA employees are facing mental health crisis

Personal issues, such as financial problems, relationship difficulties, or health concerns, can spill over into the workplace, affecting concentration. Picture:

Personal issues, such as financial problems, relationship difficulties, or health concerns, can spill over into the workplace, affecting concentration. Picture:

Published Jul 3, 2024


Employee health, particularly during South Africa's Corporate Wellness Week from July 3 - 7, is a crucial topic that affects both individuals and organisations.

Recent findings from Life Health Solutions shed light on concerning trends in mental health risks within the corporate workplace.

Life Health Solutions, a leading provider of health risk management solutions, conducted research spanning from 2018 to 2023. Their analysis revealed a notable increase in cases of mental health risks among employees.

These risks encompass a spectrum of issues, including suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and financial instability, which not only impact the individuals involved but also pose safety risks to their colleagues and the organization as a whole.

Ineffective communication within teams or between management and employees can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and feelings of distrust. It can also hinder problem-solving and collaboration efforts.

Ineffective communication within teams or between management and employees can lead to misunderstandings. Picture: Antoni Shkraba /Pexels

A lack of opportunities for career growth, advancement or recognition for achievements can lead to feelings of stagnation and demotivation. Employees may feel undervalued or unappreciated, affecting their morale.

Personal issues, such as financial problems, relationship difficulties or health concerns, can spill over into the workplace, affecting concentration, productivity and overall well-being.

The rise in mental health challenges highlights the importance of addressing employee well-being comprehensively.

It underscores the need for proactive measures to support mental health within workplaces, especially as employees navigate various stressors and pressures in their professional and personal lives.

Corporate Wellness Week serves as an opportune moment to reflect on strategies that promote a healthier work environment.

Employers are encouraged to implement initiatives that prioritise mental health awareness, provide access to resources for support and counselling, and foster a culture of openness and understanding.

Investing in employee health and well-being, organisations can not only enhance productivity and morale but also cultivate a workplace where individuals feel valued and supported.

As the landscape of work evolves, placing a spotlight on mental health becomes increasingly vital in sustaining a positive and productive workforce.

Rising mental health risks across genders

Recent data has unveiled a concerning trend of increased mental health risks across genders, shedding light on significant challenges faced by both men and women in the workplace.

According to findings from a comprehensive study spanning from 2018 to 2023 by Life Health Solutions, the prevalence of mental health risk cases among men rose to 37.12% in 2023, up from 35.10% in 2018.

Conversely, while women consistently reported higher rates over the five-year period, their percentage slightly decreased from 64.90% in 2018 to 62.88% in 2023.

These statistics underscore the critical need for targeted mental health support tailored to the specific challenges faced by men and women in professional settings.

Despite women showing higher overall prevalence, it’s essential to recognise that men are equally affected by mental health risk factors, albeit possibly under-reported due to societal expectations and stigma surrounding men's mental health.

Addressing mental health challenges requires a nuanced approach that acknowledges and responds to the unique pressures experienced by both genders, commented Dr Sarah Jameson, a psychologist specialising in workplace wellness.

The research also highlighted alarming trends among younger demographics. Individuals aged 30-39 accounted for the largest group presenting with mental health risks in 2023, with a notable 10.78% of cases involving individuals under the age of 19.

This points to the urgent need for early intervention and support mechanisms targeting young adults navigating workplace and personal challenges.

Moreover, the study revealed an often-overlooked impact on dependants of employees, with a notable increase in mental health risks observed among this group. This underscores the ripple effect of workplace stress on families and the broader community.

The drivers behind these rising mental health challenges were identified as multifaceted. Suicidal risk remained a prevalent concern, predominantly linked to depression, stress, and relationship difficulties.

2023 witnessed a sharp uptick in stress-related issues, anxiety, bereavement, domestic violence and difficulties adjusting to life changes, all contributing significantly to mental health risk cases.

As organisations and communities observe these concerning trends, there is a growing consensus on the need for comprehensive mental health strategies that foster supportive, inclusive, and resilient workplaces.

By prioritising mental health awareness, destigmatising help-seeking behaviours, and providing accessible resources, employers can play a pivotal role in promoting employee well-being and mitigating the impact of mental health challenges across all demographics.

These findings point to the urgent need for proactive mental health support in South African corporate environments, explained Safia Joseph, a psychologist at Life Health Solutions.

Employers must cultivate a culture of well-being and offer resources that empower employees to manage personal and professional challenges effectively.

For instance, at our organisation, we provide comprehensive employee wellness programs tailored to meet the increasing demand for additional mental health treatment, support and management, explained Joseph.