Editor’s note: This report mentions topics such as self-harm.
As the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study has found that two out of 25 Filipino employees are at risk for suicide, and COVID-19 fears are the main driver for suicidal thoughts.
In the study Suicidal Ideation and The Workplace by mental health services company MindNation, 5,868 employees of Philippine companies were surveyed from September 2020 to June 2021. The survey covered questions about workplace satisfaction, the respondents’ mental health and factors that affect it, and ways it can be improved.
Analyzing the survey responses, the study found that 8% of employees surveyed had suicidal thoughts.
Based on their data, suicidal employees were most likely to be female (61%), young, within the 18 to 34 age range (85%), single (83%), and childless (67%). The study defines suicidal employees as respondents who responded to the question “How often do you feel suicide or self harm?” with a rating of “half the time,” “majority of the time,” or “most dominant feeling.”
The study found that COVID-19 fears were the biggest source of mental health challenges among suicidal employees, followed by personal matters, financial pressure, work performance pressure, and loneliness.
The survey was conducted among employees from the technology, food, education, travel, and manufacturing industries. Out of the total number of respondents, MindNation isolated the answers of 465 suicidal employees, and compared their answers with that of the bigger group. Only the responses at a 95% confidence interval were mentioned.
MindNation also interviewed psychologists, and their answers were used to supplement the survey findings.
Effects on work
Those experiencing suicidal thoughts also reported compromised performance at work – with 51% reporting a productivity loss of up to 2.6 hours a day in their work shift, 43% saying it takes them longer to complete tasks, 67% having concentration problems, and 42% considering quitting work.
Suicidal employees also hesitate sharing their mental health problems with their managers, with only 12% truthfully giving the reason for taking a mental health break, and 35% saying they’re taking a break for physical health problems instead.
Underscoring the loneliness of those at risk, the study found that only 35% of suicidal employees are comfortable with opening up to a psychologist, 21.08% said they aren’t comfortable opening up to anyone, and 16.56% said they can open up to friends.
Recommended actions for employers
The study gave three recommendations to help address employees’ mental health issues.
First, companies should make mental health services available to employees, especially the most vulnerable segments. These can range from mental health webinars, to one-on-one sessions.
Second, it highlighted the importance of ending the stigma towards mental health. Recommended actions included having a company mental health policy, offering mental health sick days, and creating a safe space for mental health conversations.
“Easy steps like company leaders making it a topic in company-wide meetings or mid-level manager 1-on-1 meetings are effective ways to spread this movement in the organization,” the study said.
Third, it recommended spearheading social activities to help ease employees’ loneliness – for example, group activities like virtual hangouts, happy hours, gym sessions, book clubs, and a work buddy system.
“The three recommendations above are not everything, but would be a good start for employers to help support their most challenged employees in terms of mental health,” the study said.
“With all the difficulties involved with the current pandemic situation, it is crucial that companies recognize the importance of employee mental health and its effects on work, but more importantly towards the quality of the employee’s life,” it concluded.
In March, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported the rise of suicide cases in the country in 2020. PSA data showed that suicide incidents rose by 25.7% in 2020, and more incidents of intentional self-harm were also reported. – Rappler.com
The Department of Health, through the National Center for Mental Health, has a national crisis hotline to assist people with mental health concerns. The hotline can be reached at 1553, which is a Luzon-wide, toll-free landline number, 0917-899-8727 and 0966-351-4518 for Globe and TM subscribers, and 0908-639-2672 for Smart and Sun subscribers.
The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation also has a 24/7 emotional crisis hotline for those in need of immediate assistance. They can be reached at (02) 804-HOPE (4673), 0917-558-HOPE (4673), or 2919 toll-free for Globe and TM subscribers.
In Touch Community Services has Crisis Line, a free phone counselling service available 24/7. Their numbers are: (02) 893-7603 (landline), 0917-800-1123 (Globe), and 0922-893-8944 (Sun). They can also be reached via email at email@example.com
MindNation also offers mental health first aid with trained experts. The free service is accessible 24/7 via Facebook messenger through this link: http://bit.ly/mn-chat.