This country can expect an increase in mental health issues as the economic crisis continues and unemployment increases.

This warning came from psychiatrist Dr Sharon Harvey, who cautioned that an increase in gambling, suicidal thoughts and overeating were some of the issues linked to an economic crisis and layoffs.

She said, however, that while those who became unemployed received assistance, those who remained in employment should also be given adequate attention and counselling since they too would experience a rise in their stress levels.

Harvey was making a presentation at Solidarity House today, day two of the Week Of Excellence seminar. She spoke on the topic The Impact of an Economic Crisis On The Mental Health Of The Workforce.

“There will be depression [and] upward trends in suicidal rates. Some literature shows this quite clearly. Persons will have anxiety, there will be compulsive behaviours such as overeating . . . gambling and overspending . . . and alcoholic disorders and illicit drug use,” she said.

“So those are some of the things we will be expecting to see as we have an economic crisis,” added Harvey.

Increased workload, fear of losing one’s job during an economic crisis and restructuring exercises within a corporation were some of the issues that could affect the mental health of existing employees. And this, Harvey indicated, could increase presenteeism and also bring
on stress.

She said that “the burden” placed on employees after their colleagues were laid off was often not recognized and often not spoken about, adding that managers and supervisors were also affected.

The psychiatrist said the stigma associated with psychological illnesses was preventing people from admitting that they were experiencing some of the occurrences. This, she said, could result in high incidence of presenteeism and could be costing companies more than absenteeism was.

She said because of fear of losing one’s job, some people, although they are stressed and should take some time off, would still turn up for work but would be less productive.

In her opening remarks, Toni Moore, deputy general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), called for more attention to be given to the fallout on human health associated with the current economic crisis.

She said it was unfortunate that very little research and statistics were available in the Caribbean to show the impact of mental health on the workforce.

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