Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

EDITORIAL: Workers' Stress Diagnosis Tests May Help Prevent Depression

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

EDITORIAL: Workers' Stress Diagnosis Tests May Help Prevent Depression

Article excerpt

Can a government-envisaged program help prevent mental illnesses in the workplace and lead to measures to deal with such ailments at an early phase?

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to make it mandatory for businesses to conduct stress diagnosis tests on their employees.

The ministry will submit a bill to revise the Industrial Safety and Health Law during the current Diet session, with a view to putting the program into force before the end of fiscal 2015.

Everyone feels some kind of stress at work. If that stress becomes excessive, workers run the risk of developing mental illness, such as depression. It is a serious problem that the number of recognized claims for work-related mental problems under the workmen's compensation insurance system has been rising.

The stress diagnosis program is not aimed at winnowing out workers with mental health problems. The ministry says the program is designed to help employees become aware of the signs of depression or other mental problems.

Companies under the program would be expected to throw their support behind treatment of their employees' mental problems and to help them return to work, while taking steps to improve the workplace environment.

Specifically, the program is designed to determine the degree of employees' fatigue and anxiety once a year through questionnaires that would be evaluated either by a medical doctor or public health nurse. Individual employees would be able to request interviews with and advice from doctors, according to the ministry.

If a doctor suggests a worker needs to have his or her working burden reduced, the company would be obliged to take such measures as job reassignment or cutting the working hours of employees involved.

Huge costs involved

The business activities of companies can be seriously affected if workers in their most productive years have to leave the workplace because of mental health problems. Arrangements to ensure workers' mental health are also important from the viewpoint of reducing losses to society and the national economy. …

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