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Mental Health in the Workplace: The Critical Role of the Employee Assistance Programme

December 10 2018 - by Denise Dumas-Koylass, Clinical Psychologist, Facilitator & an Alumna of CLP's Leadership Development Programme

Mental well-being enables people to manage their thoughts, emotions and behaviours and thereby achieve their full potential and cope effectively with normal life stressors.  However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that one in four persons will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

This statistic emphasizes the need for Government Health Agencies in the Caribbean to develop and implement policies, legislation and programmes designed to treat with mental health issues.  It also has implications for employers and leaders as research indicates that employees need support to cope more effectively with issues such as depression, anxiety and other psychological conditions, substance abuse, work life balance, domestic violence, and financial challenges.

The establishment of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) has worked to help progressive organizations to address such concerns.  According to the global Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA), an EAP is a workplace programme designed to assist: (1) work organizations in addressing productivity issues, and (2) employees in identifying and resolving personal concerns, including health, marital, family, financial, alcohol, drug, legal, emotional, stress, or other personal issues that may affect job performance.

Typically, an EAP will offer services such as counselling, training, referrals, trauma support and management information designed to improve the organizational climate and employee well-being.  Specifically, according to the EAPA, an EAP is characterized by the following eight (8) essential components, referred to as the ‘core technology’:  

  1. Consultation with, training of, and assistance to work organization leadership (managers, supervisors, and union officials) seeking to manage troubled employees, enhance the work environment, and improve employee job performance; 
  1. Active promotion of the availability of EA services to employees, their family members, and the work organization; 
  1. Confidential and timely problem identification/assessment services for employee clients with personal concerns that may affect job performance; 
  1. Use of constructive confrontation, motivation, and short-term intervention with employee clients to address problems that affect job performance; 
  1. Referral of employee clients for diagnosis, treatment, and assistance, as well as case monitoring and follow-up services; 
  1. Assisting work organizations in establishing and maintaining effective relations with treatment and other service providers, and in managing provider contracts; 
  1. Consultation to work organizations to encourage availability of and employee access to health benefits covering medical and behavioral problems including, but not limited to, alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental and emotional disorders; and 
  1. Evaluation of the effects of EA services on work organizations and individual job performance. 

Models of EAP service delivery vary.  EAP services can be delivered by external service providers or a team of internal professionals. Other alternatives include a hybrid combination of both external and internal service providers or a consortium of employers partnering to contract external service providers.

In terms of return on investment, research has been conducted that demonstrates that the implementation of EAPs has resulted in positive change in the mental wellbeing of employees. This in turn has had a positive impact on work performance, attendance and workplace relations.  It is, therefore, evident that both the organization and employees can benefit tremendously from the establishment of an EAP in the workplace.  In light of the benefits outlined, it is hoped that leaders will take action to ensure that EAPs are established in public service organizations throughout the Caribbean.  


The Government of Saint Lucia's Employee Assistance Programme is considered a bright spot, and an excellent example of an innovative, holistic and successful implementation to address these very challenges - on a budget. To learn more about this EAP, click here to register  for CLP's next webinar on January 15, 2019.