In her keynote address, Deputy Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Dr Chana Pilane-Majake, said the mental health of public servants has a causal relationship between their productivity and service delivery outcomes.

A conducive work environment not only ensures that public servants lead healthy lives and discharge their duties effectively and efficiently, but their well-being also has a positive impact on the overall functioning of the Public Service, as the Deputy Minister explained in the keynote address she delivered on behalf of the Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Ms Noxolo Kiviet.

“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the average person spends at least a third of their adult life in the workplace. It is thus important that the workplace provides a conducive environment where employees can function at their peak,” said Deputy Minister Dr Pilane-Majake.

The two-day-long Public Service Health and Well-being Indaba that the Deputy Minister addressed this morning followed a rainy but successful staging of the Walkie Talkie Inter-departmental Sports Day at the University of Mpumalanga Sports Grounds yesterday.

Also hosted in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, the Indaba was physically and virtually attended by Human Resources and health risk practitioners and private sector providers. The objective of the Indaba was to look at strategies and initiatives to increase the health and well-being of public servants, particularly considering the following grim statistics that Deputy Minister Dr Pilane-Majake shared from the South African College of Applied Psychology (2018):

  • One in six South Africans suffers from anxiety, depression, or a substance use disorder.
  • 40% of South Africans living with HIV have a comorbid mental disorder.
  • 41% of pregnant women were depressed.
  • About 60% of South Africans could be suffering from post-traumatic stress; this figure includes motor vehicle accidents and crime.
  • While only 27% of South Africans with severe mental disorders receive treatment.

As members of society and public servants, Deputy Minister Dr Pilane-Majake said the specific statistics from the Government Employees Medical Aid Scheme (GEMS) similarly indicate bleak mental states among government employees. She challenged the Indaba delegates to start rethinking the idea of health and wellness in the Public Service during their two-day deliberations and come up with appropriate strategies and policies.

“Traditionally, sustainable employability was conceptualised mainly based on a medical and performance perspective, focusing on absenteeism, sick leave, and performance-related indicators. However, with the emerging subfields of the Future of Work and positive organisational psychology, there is a need for the public service to consider those measures that are specific to them, with more focus on those areas that positively affect the well-being of officials at work,” said the Deputy Minister.

Through panel discussions, the afternoon session was expected to delve deeper into the challenges of dealing with employee health and well-being in the Public Service, drawing on the experiences and expertise of Government health risk practitioners and private service providers. In contrast, the second day is expected to focus on solutions and the way forward.