A few days ago, I had a conversation with an ex colleague I hadn’t seen in a while. He was tired, feeling worn out and lost, a feeling that many of us have sometimes because we probably had a bad day, stressful client etc. However, a different conversation with a new colleague gave me insight of how he once walked away from a client site, left his laptop and never looked back. He was tired and at the utmost burnout and depressed because no one really got the fact that he was depressed. He was best at his work, always got promoted and got awards but deep inside, he was dying.
It led me to think, how do we treat and have a conversation about the mental well being in the workplace? Kenya is already a difficult work environment as is. In light of this, any complaints about fatigue, bullying and harassment at work leading to bad mental health is deemed as being ungrateful. Most people at work would be told to just hold on or not to talk about it.
There’s a stigma in the Kenyan workplace with regards to talking about mental health. Speaking out it brings a lot of judgement and what if’s. You know the what if’s of ‘they might say I’m not a team player during my review’, ‘I don’t put in as much hours’ etc. In realness human resources should pass a message where there’s a difference between being busy and being productive.
A big number of the workforce has depression and anxiety, and there’s a stigma about speaking out. Therapy isn’t equally as cheap or isn’t provided for in insurance, there’s also very few places in the country where someone can purge with no judgement. September 10 was World Suicide Prevention day, a day to help pass awareness how to get help when you want to end your life, sadly the number of suicides in the workplace are increasing at an alarming rate.
From my little experience, it’s OK to admit you’re drowning and need help. The pain of judgement passes over time. Organizations should put in good health and safety policies to deal with mental health and support of it, there should clear working structures per job description, good time management and communication.
Reach out and support the person who sits next to you at work or you have lunch with. We all struggle in different ways with depression and mental health at work. Let it not lead to a fatality where it can be mitigated.