Opinion: Mental Health in the Workplace

By Enid Ongaya | Thursday Jan 17, 2019

So, what is mental health and what is a mental illness.Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. Mental illness is a disease or condition that affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and relates to others and to his or her surroundings and impairs their ability to function daily.

Managing mental health in the workplace is important because the average worker spends 73,000 hours of his life in a working environment (formal or informal). Mental health appears to be a taboo topic in some workplaces and is surrounded by a lot of stigma stemming from ignorance.

Workplace incidents involving suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse, depression and burnout have spurred some Kenyan employers to take an active role in ensuring workplace mental health. Various initiatives from providing good medical insurance covers, having recreational centers etc. (gym, pool, break rooms, onsite clinics) have been adopted (in some cases continued) to promote workplace well being

With Kenya having only 300 registered psychiatrists and psychologists, and only 4 hospitals with specialized psychiatric units, employers have a moral obligation to support this health initiative.

Home is where the heart and mind are and when the heart and mind are at work it becomes a home. It is therefore vital to secure safety and health in all its forms.

Why Mental Health with a Smile? Because mental health is such a heavy concept that it is most often said in fear, or anxiety or even disgust. But I want to promote saying it with a smile. Same way we sometimes talk about physical health with enthusiasm and gusto. Going to the gym, getting new glasses, having your teeth whitened , getting that right ointment for acne prone skin… These are all to do with physical health and no one frowns while saying them (most of the time)

So let’s change the narrative. Say it with a smile , say it with confidence. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleague ,’are you okay? ‘ That is already a good step towards promoting mental health in the workplace.

Article first published on LinkedIn

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