A report from Mental Health Hub, a mental health organisation in Rwanda, has revealed that 30.1 per cent of employees in private and public institutions are experiencing work-related stress due to fear of job loss or lack of promotion. ALSO READ: Government to conduct detailed study on state of mental health Personal finances, family responsibilities, poor leadership, working in shifts, changes in duties, working away from families, changes in the organisation, harassment, discrimination and hate, workplace relationships or conflicts, several projects with deadlines, and physical health concerns are among the issues impacting employees’ mental health. ALSO READ: The essence of mental health, wellbeing in the workplace The ‘State of Mental Health at Work’ report launched as part of a month dedicated to mental health, shows 30.4 per cent reported heavy workloads and long hours. According to the report, high or extreme stress increased from 34.1 per cent in 2021 to 37.8 per cent in 2023, while moderate stress increased from 77.6 per cent to 80. 4 per cent. ALSO READ: Senators root for ‘Rwandan solutions’ in dealing with mental health issues Due to the impact of stress on work life, 30.4 per cent of respondents reported an increase in physical health issues and 17.5 per cent in mental health issues in 2023, while 48. 3 per cent said they became less productive. The report shows that due to mental health issues at work, 51.4 per cent said they have difficulties in concentrating while 25.5 per cent find it harder to collaborate with co-workers. At least 64 per cent said it is important that employers offer emotional and mental health support. The sectors with a large number of workers with mental health issues include hospitality and tourism, public servants, education, telecommunication, banking and finance, manufacturing, ICT, and others. The survey showed that in the last 30 days, 16 per cent had bad interactions with others while about 20 per cent had difficulty making decisions. Lack of motivation, resilience, fatigue and lack of energy, insomnia, backaches, and headaches are among the effects on workers’ mental health. It indicates that 78.9 per cent of young professionals had fatigue in their last 30 days. Employees (44.4 per cent of the respondents) expressed the need for building mental and emotional resilience. ALSO READ: Calls grow for more mental health services They also requested stress release practices, individual counselling and therapy, mental well-being for families, stress and anxiety management, work-life balance, and others. “The impact of stress on productivity at work is serious. Employers can do more to support employees’ mental health and well-being,” said Espoir Baraka, a psychologist. He said that there is a need for awareness about mental health work so that employees are able to get help. “Stigma prevents workers with mental health issues from seeking support. Employers should create a platform and culture to discuss workers’ mental health. We see workers’ behaviour, like in cases of absenteeism or coming to work late, and laziness. Productivity also shrinks. These might be signs of a bad state of mental health,” he said, adding that there should be a counsellor to listen to employees. Suzan Mutamba, Head of HR at the Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB) said: “We have to help workers express themselves. The culture of teamwork, mutual respect, and good relationships at work enables good communication and this can be one of the ways to cope with mental health disorders at work.” Call for emotional well-being support Francoise Uzamukunda, the Country Director at Mental Health Hub Rwanda, said that after the Covid-19 pandemic, people had to work hard and therefore stress levels at work increased. “Employees have issues caused by outside life and those caused by work. These include family conflicts, personal financial problems, overtime, poor leadership, lack of motivation and promotion at work, low salary,” she said, adding that there is a need for emotional well-being support at work. “Employers should know the mental health status of workers and address some issues that cause stress at work. 80 per cent of workers need emotional well-being resources in addition to salaries. Over 50 per cent of workers facing stress at work are youth,” she noted. In 2021, the survey revealed that 77 per cent of workers across various sectors experience moderate to extreme daily stress, with 34 per cent reporting high levels of extreme stress. Furthermore, 43 per cent attributed their stress to Covid-19, while 37 per cent mentioned financial difficulties or poverty, and 29 per cent expressed fear of job loss. Additionally, 28 per cent cited personal and family issues as contributing factors. Exode Rukundo, the Manager for Business Performance and Reporting at MTN Rwanda, expressed the need for a supportive environment to improve workers' mental health. “The way employers treat employees affects mental health,” he noted. At least 12 workdays are lost every year by a worker suffering from depression, according to studies. There is a $2-4 return on investment for every dollar spent on evidence-based prevention of mental illnesses and early intervention. ALSO READ: Rwanda moves to scale up mental health services According to Darius Gishoma, Mental Health Division Manager at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), the national mental health campaign’s primary goal is to address the urgent concern of mental health among youth, recognising its impact not only on their personal lives but also on the broader well-being of the nation. “We have to prevent and avoid what can affect mental health. We should help those with mental health issues to get treatment. Everyone should fight the stigma against people with mental health disorders. More efforts are needed in preventing conflicts because they affect mental well-being,” he said. The Ministry of Health plans to conduct an in-depth assessment of the state of mental health following several reports of increasing numbers of people battling mental illness. In October 2022, Ndera Neuro-Psychiatric Teaching Hospital reported that it had received 7,817 patients battling depression compared to 1,743 recorded in 2021.