Unions want workers’ mental health prioritised

“There can be no health without mental health.”

This was the message of a webinar organised by BWI in Africa and the Middle East on the psychological effects of COVID-19 to workers last 30 November. 

The online event, which was attended by more than 100 participants from different sub-regions in Africa and MENA, was successfully conducted with the support and participation of partners and solidarity support organizations such as FES TUCC, SASK, IOM, ILO ACTRAV and psychological scientists and researchers from universities in Lebanon and South Africa.

Dr. Wael Salame, Assistant Professor at the American University of Lebanon and Clinical Psychiatrist, said that the start of the pandemic saw a dramatic rise in the cases of depression, anxiety attacks and suicides. He said that it is important for trade unions to develop sustainable programs to address the mental health needs of its members by offering counselling and better access to health care. 

For his part, Lebohang Liepollo Pheko, Senior Research Fellow and Trade Collective Think Tank Managing Director at Four Rivers South Africa, said that employers and governments have not taken appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on workers despite the para-economic consequences of the pandemic, including shifts in lifestyles and living conditions and modification of existing healthcare systems.

BWI Regional Executive Committee President and GTUBWW President Abdel Monem Al Gamal said that trade unions must include their members’ mental health in the list of priority issues that they must address to help workers survive the global health crisis.

Since the start of the pandemic, there is a growing clamour for comprehensive studies on the impact of COVID-19 on people’s mental health. Many experts, citing different surveys and research, warned that the pandemic could have deep and possibly long-term impacts on mental health.