Businesses key to addressing SA’s workplace mental health crisis
11 May, 2023

Gary Feldman, Executive Head of Healthcare Consulting at NMG Benefits


South Africa’s workplaces are battling a silent mental health crisis – and businesses have a critical role to play in easing the effects of mental health issues through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), says employee benefits firm NMG.


The Annual Mental State of the World Report puts South Africa as one of the lowest-ranked countries in the world when it comes to mental health. While Venezuela topped the list with a score of 91, the UK and South Africa had the lowest scores at 46. It’s estimated that one in three South Africans will experience a mental health problem or illness in their lifetimes, but even before the pandemic, only one in 10 would seek help.


That’s why it’s critical that employers actively invest in, and support, the mental health and wellbeing of their people in the workplace, Gary Feldman, Executive Head of Healthcare Consulting at NMG Benefits.


“Growing numbers of South Africans are feeling overwhelming stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression. This affects their relationships, quality of life, and productivity, to the point where they no longer can deliver on the most basic of requests. Even responding to an email can be an anxiety provoking task,” said Feldman.


The average person spends one-third of their life at work, so understanding employee wellness is crucial. It doesn’t just speak to the physical health of employees, but also their emotional and mental wellbeing, and even their financial and legal stability. Employees who are happy and healthy are more resilient and can better manage change.


South African employers who take a proactive and flexible approach to supporting their people are seeing real improvements in productivity. There is a clear correlation between having an effective Employee Assistance Program and absenteeism management program in place, and improved productivity.


Research suggests workplace initiatives designed to promote good mental health among employees can provide companies with a measurable return on their investment. According to the World Health Organisation, companies can see a $4 return on every $1 they put towards treating common mental health concerns.


“Employers who invest in their employees are seeing healthcare and disability costs go down, as many physical ailments are linked to mental health. It’s more important than ever to sense-check your people policies, and talk to your employees about how you can support them,” said Feldman.


Some of the ways in which EAPs can help employees manage their mental wellness include:



Confidential counselling services help employees address personal and work-related issues that are affecting their mental and emotional health. These services are typically offered by external licensed mental health professionals, who keep all information confidential.


Stress Management

EAP programs often provide stress management resources to help employees manage stress and promote overall wellness. These services may include workshops, stress management tools, counselling specifically around stress management and online resources.


Financial and legal support

Financial struggles are one of the biggest sources of stress in the workplace. EAPs can help employees access legal and financial advice to manage their financial and legal wellbeing, both in their personal life and at work. This includes advice on estate planning, debt counselling, and even assisting with divorce proceedings.


Workplace support

A healthy work environment promotes mental wellbeing. Workplace support can include providing training and resources to managers to identify and address potential issues in the workplace. EAPs can also support employee wellbeing through flexible working arrangements, employee wellness programs and peer support programs.


Cultivate empathy

Cultivating an environment focused on empathy is key to harnessing the power of productivity. Organisational success relies on a compassionate and inclusive culture.

“EAPs play a critical role in addressing workplace mental health issues by providing support to employees and reducing the stigma around mental health. Employers who invest in their employees in this way can maintain overall wellbeing in the workplace. This increases productivity, job





@Gary Feldman
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