Employers have been advised to make workplaces a conducive environment to address the mental health and wellness of their employees.
Speaking during a webinar on ‘Fostering Mental Health in the Changing World’ organised by ICEA LION Uganda, Dr. Brenda Kharono – a global health specialist, said, “The workplace is a good place to start conversations on culturally appropriate mental health interventions, and management should be supportive of platforms that enable their employees to open up about the things that they can’t open up about at home where their children or relatives are.” She added that this would lead to increased productivity, engagement and motivation for businesses.
This follows recent statistics from the Ministry of Health and the Uganda Counseling Association stating that about 14 million Ugandans suffer from a form of mental illness – a majority of whom have depression and anxiety disorders.
In 2021, mental health activists raised concerns over the inadequate number of psychiatrists and treatment facilities in Uganda, which has greatly affected the provision of mental health services.
Dr. Brenda shared a number of practical strategies to help increase workplace well-being including increasing employee control, and input into work hours and location; workplace health promotion strategies like physical activity, mental health awareness and education and relaxation training; implementing resilience training and early intervention programs for high-risk occupations or those exposed to significant trauma and stress; in-house workplace counselling and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs); and the provision of peer support schemes, among others.
While giving his closing remarks, ICEA LION Life Assurance Chief Executive Officer, Emmanuel Mwaka encouraged participants to look out for each other. “We should be each other’s keepers both in the workplace and at home. Now more than ever it has become critical for us to be more mindful of both our mental health and that of the people we interact with on a day-to-day basis. At ICEA LION we prioritize health and we are ready to walk that journey with all our clients.”
The discussion comes during World Mental Health Month, which is recognized every October and aims to address mental health issues to empower more people to take action and create lasting change.
This month, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a campaign to raise awareness and spur action towards suicide prevention in the African region, which has the world’s highest rates of death by suicide – due in part to insufficient action to address and prevent risk factors such as mental health conditions.