Office ‘supporters’ to help staff with mental disorders

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to develop 20,000 supporters for people with mental disorders at workplaces within the current fiscal year.

 Colleagues of people who have been diagnosed with mental disorders are meant to comprise these “supporters for workers with mental disorders or developmental disabilities.” Under the revised law aimed at promoting employment of disabled people, which takes effect in April next year, private companies of a certain size and public institutions will be required to employ designated quotas not only of people with physical or intellectual disabilities but also of people with mental disorders. 

 The supporters measure is in line with the revisions, which are aimed at helping such employees settle into their tasks and workplaces. 

 The supporters are expected to work to preemptively mitigate any difficulties colleagues with mental disorders might experience, keeping an eye on them as well as talking to them in the workplace. They will receive lectures on the behavioral characteristics of persons with mental disorders, and the points to be noted concerning their continuing work duties from psychiatric social workers, health nurses and others at Hello Work job placement centers across the country. 

 Under the law, employers with 50 employees or more are required to employ designated quotas of persons with disabilities. There are about 90,000 companies of this size across the country. The ministry will start developing such supporters from this fiscal year and continue to hold lectures in the following fiscal year and on an ongoing basis thereafter. 

 According to a survey by the ministry, there were a total of 474,374 disabled people working at companies with 50 employees or more as of June 2016, up 4.7 per cent, or 21,240, from the previous year. In particular, the number of persons with mental disorders working at such companies saw large growth, increasing by 21.3 per cent from the previous year to 42,028. 

 Persons with mental disorders often experience difficulty in getting accustomed to work or in managing their mental or physical conditions, resulting in their quickly leaving their jobs. The ministry has heard from companies that as many as half of the people they employed with mental disorders  quit after only a brief amount of time. To address this situation, the ministry has considered various measures to help them settle into their work.