The theme of Mental Health is becoming, more and more, a mainstream subject on the agenda of corporations. With this in mind, the Center for Responsible Business & Leadership of CATÓLICA-LISBON is promoting a Summit in July entirely dedicated to this topic. This article aims to give context to the urgency of this agenda.

Talking about mental health in the workplace, employee well-being, work-life balance, and psychosocial risk management and how it can influence productivity, performance, business, and its' bottom line, is not something new to most national and international corporations. Even admitting there isn't a strategic drive and prudent attention focused on what goes on inside the walls of each corporation with their greatest asset (People) – and I sincerely want to believe that, in most cases, the conscience about the importance and relevance of the topic exists – even then, with such a wide and diverse flow of evidence about the urgency to have honest, clean and transparent approaches to the subject, would be more than enough to open the eyes of the most unwary managers for the need to act. And not only with light measures that look well but don't have a huge effect, but with the strength, firmness, and, most of all, the courage to break stigmas that have not been acceptable for a long time but which now become totally incomprehensible.

According to the consensus paper developed under The EU Health Programme (2014-2020), under the title "EU Compass for Action on Mental Health and Well-Being," approximately 38% of the EU population suffer from a mental disorder each year.

The most frequent disorders are:

  • Anxiety Disorders – 14%
  • Insomnia – 7%
  • Major Depression – 6,9%
  • Somatoform – a group of psychiatric disorders that cause unexplained physical symptoms – 6,3%
  • Alcohol and drug dependence - > 4%
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – 5%
  • Dementia – 1-30% - depending on age

In its conclusions, this paper clearly states that depression was found to be the most disabling condition. But for those who may think that this is an exclusive of the EU, which is probably one of the most complex and diverse geographical contexts and where the concept of a BANI world (Brittle, Fragile, Nonlinear, and Incomprehensible) is a perfect fit, let's take a look at relevant evidence coming from the US, where the Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares, on its Mental Health and Stress in the Workplace Brief (July 2018) that "Mental health disorders are among the most burdensome health concerns in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 US adults aged 18 or older (18.3% or 44.7 million people) reported any mental illness in 2016." 

It's only fair to question – if it was like this back in 2016, what urgent measures were taken to tackle this, just like we are doing with climate change matters? After all, the systemic matrix of the UN 2015 SDGs has, at its core, the concern to protect the People, as well as the Planet. 

What about Portugal?

Unfortunately, it doesn't look any better.

According to the Society of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Portugal has Europe's second-highest prevalence of psychiatric illnesses (22.9%). In addition to this, further studies show that around 57% of the Portuguese population presents some psychological distress.

I believe that this data shouts out loud not only to the hearts of everyone but also to the conscience, sense of responsibility, and drive for the action of managers. The question that arises then is – If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

The limit for the stigma should be in line with the limit to hide and escape from inevitability.

And acting is now inevitable.

These are the reasons why the Center for Responsible Business and Leadership of CATÓLICA-LISBON is promoting this Summit on the 19th and the 20th of July. Much more than talking, the main goal is to call all corporations to draw the lines for future concrete action. Paths are made by walking. 

​​​​​​​Have a great and impactful week!​​​​​​​

Frederico Fezas Vital
Adjunct Professor of Social Entrepreneurship @ CATÓLICA-LISBON

This article refers to edition #144 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter and covers SDG 3. 
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