Mental Health Awareness Month: Kick-Starting Awareness at the Workplace

  • 13 May 2022
  • 2 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Yasin Wangara

Mental Health is a global issue. In analysis, more than 300 million people around the world are suffering from the leading problem of mental health, depression. This is a representation of 4.4% of the world’s total population. In Kenya, a staggering 1 out of 4 persons who seek healthcare in Kenya have a mental health condition, thus, in every family, chances are high that there is a person suffering from a mental disorder. Such alarming figures are a reflection of the wider prevalence of mental ill-health in the general public.

Kenya’s health facilities estimate that 25% of its outpatient clients and 40% of its inpatient clients suffer from mental health issues. The low detection rate among health workers translates into poor health outcomes and an increase in healthcare costs which can be tragic in the end. It has also been noted that most people lack basic knowledge of what mental health is all about, the symptoms of a mental problem, and basically possible solutions to the nightmare. 

Persons living with mental health conditions face stigma in our communities. The stigma arises from cultural myths and misconceptions and is sustained by a lack of knowledge and negative attitudes. The beliefs that mental illnesses are a result of personal failure, family curses, and spiritual entities have no basis in science. There is however evidence that stigma and discrimination is a barrier to access to mental health services. The other barriers include a lack of mental health services in the health system.

In recent years, the increasing acknowledgment of the important role mental health plays in steering the productivity of a person and the achievability of the global development goals has stirred a discussion around the silent monster, prompting its inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals. Including mental health under Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya represents a paradigm shift towards tackling issues on mental health. According to the World Health Organization, people with severe mental health conditions die prematurely; as much as two decades earlier- due to preventable physical conditions. 

Without a clear framework, the war against mental health issues is likely to drag, and the more it drags the more harm it causes to our loved ones, both at the workplace and even back at home. With everything returning to normalcy, in-person meetings back on our schedules, and less working from home, I suppose the primary place where we can kick start the issue of mental health awareness is at the workplace. Organisations’ leadership need to champion the narrative and encourage the staff not to fear opening up. Those with symptoms of any mental instability be accorded the much-needed attention and help. And those who are well, to be encouraged to engage in more physical activities that will engage their mind and time to help circumvent possible mental health issues.