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Walter Cavichio

Attention to Mental Health Must Guide Companies’ Present and Future

The Covid-19 pandemic brought a host of new concerns to people all over the world. Fear of getting sick. Of needing a hospital bed. Losing loved ones, or your job. Between February and April 2020, in the United States, unemployment numbers rose from 5,717,000 to 23,109,000 as the illness marched on. Commerce in the country and across the planet came to a temporary halt. But, when the American economy bounced back, scholars noted a trend — people were simply leaving their jobs at a record rate. 
If you look at the juncture in America, you could ask yourself: with all the layoffs and firings, what motivates American workers to do this? A study by researcher Anthony Klotz, a specialist in organizational psychology, shows that there are individual causes for this attitude, but, among others, is the physical and mental drain caused by work. 
Even before the pandemic made the front pages in 2019, Burnout Syndrome, which names that feeling that your brain will simply not go anymore, was included in WHO’s international illness classification, mentioned under problems associated with work and unemployment. The international entity had declared September 10 as World Suicide Prevention Day, which led to the Brazilian campaign Yellow September (Setembro Amarelo), which has taken place since 2014. It embodies a partnership between the Brazilian Association of Psychiatry (ABP) and the Federal Council of Medicine.
 With this term gaining traction, psychologists, scholars and professionals in Human Resources developed techniques to try and mitigate such problems within corporations, devising methods of decompression, activities that could contribute to employees’ mental health, but when you consider all this motion to combat something so frequent — is that how you get to the root of the problem? Could it be that the pandemic accelerated and aggravated anxieties and imbalances that had already impacted people?
 The switch from established routines in malls and offices to a workday overflowing with online meetings, apportioning time to work, family, new household habits and children’s education, along with countless other demands, sheds a little light on how many challenges the pandemic has brought, especially in the corporate world, which must now step up intervention and care around mental health. 
With all my experience in health and benefits, studying human behaviour, I may declare, as someone who has skin in the game, that my main concern today is to transform corporate culture taking into account the health of the body, of the mind, and concern with everybody's well-being. My goal is to contribute toward the implementation of mental health awareness, of meditation, which has been validated scientifically as something that improves quality of life, and incentivize psychological support, which is a prized benefit in the corporate sphere.
Although we already have technology working for us, telemedicine and remote appointments with counsellors, what we need is more conscious work from leaders so that they’ll focus on transforming their organization’s culture, encouraging teams to take care of the mind as well as the body.
Now more than ever it is difficult to separate the personal from the professional world. We can imagine how the corporate sector will adapt to offer favourable working conditions, be it remote or in-person work, giving total focus on mental health, which dovetails with any individual’s performance, and that has direct impact on work teams and companies’ bottom lines. I believe that if each of us plays our part we will help diminish the numbers on depression, burnout, anxiety, and other problems of the mind.

By Walter Cavichio, Technical Director, Health and Benefits at MDS Brazil
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