Currently, mental health costs the South African economy billions (World Health Organization). The South African Depression and anxiety group states that 1 in 4 people are diagnosed with depression. More than 80% of people diagnosed with depression stated that they continued to work during their last episode. “Depression affects cognitive functioning such as decision making, concentration, memory and problem-solving abilities. Depression negatively impacts productivity. If an employee has depression but is at work, they are 5 times less productive than an employee who was absent due to depression,” says Psychiatrist and Clinical Psychologist, Dr Frans Korb. The average amount of days off for depression specifically was 18 days.
Employee Assistant Programs (EAPs) were introduced in South Africa in the 1980’s and the main focus has been quite reactive, focusing primarily on treatment once an employee is unwell. The model has not been primarily focused on prevention. This is definitely an area which requires a lot more attention.
The main aim of our Employee Assistance Program at The Couch is to assist in the prevention and treatment of mental illness, to assist in motivating employees, increase employee morale, reduce staff turnover and avoid burnout of employees.
EAP MODEL - 3 TIER APPROACH
Tier 1 - Tracking
Tier 2 - Training and Workshops
Tier 3 - Ongoing Support
Tier 1 - TRACKING EMPLOYEES
Primarily aimed at Prevention and creating a sense of Awareness to track difficulties before they turn into problems.
(A) This step needs to occur from the beginning. The main focus in the past has always been reactive and focusing solely on treatment. This proposed plan is to incorporate a preventative strategy which would help guide us in tracking employees that are at high risk and referring them for appropriate treatment, in an attempt of avoiding hospitalisation, absenteeism, low productivity.
Practical Implementation: An assessment protocol or mental health screening that all new employees would need to fill out at the beginning of employment. This could assist us in knowing which employee is at higher risk for burnout, depression etc. These could be available to all employees (self-questionnaire).
B) To be able to implement this step, supervisors and project managers play an important gate keeping role in being able to pick up early symptoms and encouraging employees to seek assistance. This step would further include psycho-education to assist in reducing the stigma and shame in seeking help for mental illness. For this step to be effective, Psycho-educating the supervisors and project managers on what to look out for and the referral process thus becomes vital.
Practical Implementation: Talks for senior staff members to ensure they know what to look out for with employees, but also to increase their own awareness of their mental health.
Tier 2: ONGOING TRAINING AND WORKSHOPS
- The main focus is on creating Awareness from the outset and providing ongoing training.
Practical Implementation: 2 Talks per year for new employees focusing specifically on mental health awareness and self-care. (Reducing the stigma / enable early intervention)
B) Provide not only awareness but also coping strategies for burnout, stress, conflict resolution etc. These talks will be goal orientated in providing tangible skill set but also an exploration into what some of the needs of employees are. These talks would have to be done with different management levels. (2 Groups at a time)
Practical Implementation: Quarterly wellness talks on Burnout, Coping with Stress, Self-Care, Conflict Resolution, Balance etc.
Tier 3: ONGOING SUPPORT (Counselling Services)
- The main aim is to ensure that all employees have access to support
Practically Implement: The Company offers each employee access to sessions with a mental health care practitioner. Available through face to face in Rivonia / Sandton or alternatively telephone consults and Zoom sessions.
Depending on the nature of the crisis trauma, appropriate referrals for mental health care will be suggested. The 6 sessions comprise of referrals to:
- Occupational Therapist
- Social Workers
It is an exciting endeavour for us to partner with your organization and we look forward to hearing from you.
Kindly contact us should you require any clarification regarding any of the costing suggestions