Workplace depression costs SA R232bn: observing World Mental Health Day


Work stress

JOHANNESBURG – October 10th marks World Mental Health day and this year’s focus is on mental health in the workplace.


A statement released by chairperson of the Psychiatry Management Group (PsychMG) Dr Sebolelo Seape  highlights the impact that mental health issues have in the work environment.


According to Seape, depression in the workplace costs South Africa 5.7% of the GDP, which amounts to approximately R232-billion.

In 2016 the London School of Economics and Political Science found that cost of productivity due to absenteeism, illness and demotivation leads to financial losses for business.

The statement by PsychMG reveals that more than 9.7% of the South African population (or 4.5 million to be exact) are suffering from depression.


Seape says, ‘The chances are quite real that the person sitting next to you in the office is at some stage in their lives coping with the condition. It’s not only the duty of the individuals suffering from mental health issues, but also organisations and colleagues to fight the stigma associated.’


In South Africa, employees are very likely to keep working during periods of depression, impacting their productivity and performance at work. This can be due to fear of losing their jobs, being ostracised from colleagues, or lack of mental health knowledge, not understanding why they are going through a spell of periods of not being well.’


Samantha Thornton of the Harris Centre for Mental Health said that taking a few days off only to end up sitting at home doing nothing will not help one to cope when one returns to work.

The South African constitution specifies that any person who is employed and is suffering from a mental health condition has a constitutional right to 'equality, human dignity, reasonable accommodation and fair labour practice. An employer therefore cannot demote or transfer a person or reduce a salary because of a mental health condition.’

Dr Seape encourages employers to make sure that workplace attitudes uphold ideals of acceptance, openness and support from managers.