On 10th October, Rwanda joined other countries all over the World to celebrate the World Mental Health Day under the theme: “Mental Health in the workplace”. The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Service and Labour and other Partners including WHO, organized in Kigali a national one day Symposium which gathered representatives of employers and employees from the Public and Private Sectors and mental health specialists. The symposium was an opportunity to discuss with participants about job stress, impact on the work and their health, and available mental health care services all over the country. It was also an occasion to strengthen collaboration between Ministry of Public service and Labour, Ministry of Health and Private Sector, and put in place intersectoral strategies for the complete well-being of employees, as social determinants of health/mental health are key to prevent mental disorders and promote safety at workplace and in families.
This year, much focus was put on the value of promoting well-being in different working settings, such as agriculture, industry, finance, government, technology, and beyond. Mental health is often neglected as a key aspect of employees’ overall health, yet the World Health Organization points out that depression leads the list of causes of illness and disability worldwide. Those who experienced depression or other disorders might be unable to work or not fully productive. Many of these illnesses can be treated, but access to treatment is often difficult, and stigma may prevent people from seeking services even when they are available. Rwanda has taken the lead to build an integrated national mental health system in a context of limited resources. Mental Health Policy emphasizes on accessibility, affordability and equity of mental health services. Major strides are made in the decentralization and integration of mental health care services into national health system and psychotropic drugs are integrated in Essential Medicine List and available at all health facilities.
In addition, mental health care and psychotropic medicines are integrated into the community-based health insurance scheme which increased the accessibility to mental health care. In terms of human resources and capacity building, the country introduced the department of mental health, clinical psychology and psychiatry into the universities to avail qualified mental health professionals.
In terms of occupational health, Rwanda has developed a national policy on Occupation Health and Safety in the workplace and has also adopted the ministerial order n°01 of 17/05/2012 determining modalities of establishing and functioning of Occupational Health and Safety Committees, whereby in its Article 50: “Prevention and management of work-related stress”. The government urges every employer to ensure the protection and promotion of the health and safety of the workers in the workplace. The government has also put in place measures to promote the well-being of the workers, including promotion of sports activities.
In her speech at the closing ceremony of the symposium, the Minister of Public Service and Labour, Hon. Rwanyindo Kayirangwa Fanfan, pledged for more collaboration between public and private sectors for the safe and well-being of their employees at workplace, and then contribute to successful development of the country.
The Symposium was organized after a one week awareness campaign on the theme of the Mental Health Day through interactive radio programs on public and private radios, spot radio, and dissemination of leaflets. A special session with health professionals is planned during the month about care at health facilities.