Taking the First Step towards Entrenching Mental Health in the Workplace: Insights from a Pilot Study Among HR Personnel in Nigeria
BACKGROUND: The continued relevance of optimal employee mental health to sustainable human capital development in the workplace underscores the need to start harnessing all resources that can be mobilized to promote the entrenchment of workplace mental health. The strategic place of workplace Human Resource (HR) units in formulating and implementing workplace welfare schemes makes them potential partners. To actualize this, it is important to initially assess the preparedness of HR personnel for, and the possible barriers to entrenching mental health in the workplace. To suggest the initial course of action and to serve as a template for a robust large-scale study, we conduct a pilot assessment of the experience with, attitudes towards, and level of prioritization of mental health in the workplace among a cohort of HR personnel in Nigeria.
METHODS: Participants were recruited in the course of a seminar/workshop and questionnaires were developed by authors to assess variables of interest. Attitudes were examined using an adapted form of the Link's Discrimination-Devaluation (LD-D) scale.
RESULTS:A total of 90 human-resource personnel completed the questionnaires. Only 16% of the participants reported having handled the case of an employee with a suspected mental health problem in the preceding 2 years. Attitudes toward employees and prospective employees with mental illness were largely poor. For instance, more than 70% were
likely to consider for employment someone with a pre-existing physical disability than for someone with a history of mental illness. In terms of workplace health promotion priorities, physical health seminars took wide precedence over mental health seminars.
CONCLUSION: The preliminary findings of this pilot study justify a need to conduct a large scale study. Significant challenges encountered in the course of this pilot study were highlighted while insights were drawn for the conduct of the main study/project.
KEY WORDS: mental health, occupational health, workplace, HR personnel, attitudes