Addressing mental health issues at the workplace

NAIROBI, Kenya 10 October 2017 – The Ministry of Health is urging employers to put more emphasis on mental health at workplace.The Director of Medial Services, Dr. Jackson Kioko said most mental illnesses are treatable if diagnosed early and there is need for employers to develop programmes and policies addressing mental health at work place.

“When managers take action to promote mental health at workplace employees become more productive,” said Dr. Kioko in a speech read by the Head of Curative and Rehabilitative Services, Dr. Izaq Odongo during the World Mental Health day event at Gilgil Sub-County Hospital, Nakuru county.

The DMS said employees should talk about depression and other mental health problems like substance abuse to have people with depression seek help.

“Addressing mental health issues in advance will save the cost of treatment and ensure productivity,” he emphasized.

The workplace health policy he argued must provide individuals and employers with information about how they can support self-care and wellbeing. It must also address the negative attitudes and prejudice associated with mental ill-health in the workplace and empower individuals and employers to take actions that promote mental health resilience and practices that support good mental health.

“This will ensure a mental health-friendly workplace which provides for programs and practices that promote and support employee health-wellness and work-life balance and capacity to identify performance problems that may indicate worker distress and Employee Assistance Program to assist those in need.

The DMS revealed that the Ministry of Health is implementing the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030 with a goal of the attainment of the highest standard of mental health which includes the optimal health status and capacity of each individual in the workplace.

“Some of the mental health policy priority actions includes: workplace programmes to assist workers in handling stressful work life situations, strategies to ensure no stigma and discrimination to persons with mental health problem in workplace and alcohol and substance abuse prevention and management,” he stressed.

Mental illnesses contribute to a significant burden of disease, loss of productivity and disability. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines; mental health as a state of well-being in which individual actualizes their potentials or abilities, cope with stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully and contribute to the communities.

Globally, there is growing burden of mental illness with one-in-four (1:4) persons likely to experience a mental health problem at some point in their lifetime. Mental, neurological and substance use disorders accounts for 13% of the total global burden of disease as measured in disability adjusted life-years (DALYs) and is postulated that, it will be the second leading cause of disease burden in 2020.

Depression contributes to 10% of time off work by the employed population with an average of 36 workdays lost per depression episode. The symptoms of depression, such as difficulties in concentrating, making decisions and remembering, are present up to 94% of the time during an episode of depression causing significant impairment in work function and productivity. The situation is worsened by the fact that 50% of people with depression are untreated due to stigma and lack of access to care.

This year’s theme: “Mental Health in the Workplace,” aims to addresses the value of promoting mental well-being in the work settings as a key aspect of employees’ overall health. The theme is a timely call for workplace work/life balance and strong policies to support the wellbeing of the work force.