Mental health and the workplace



come back now your job is a place you spend majority of your time and more often than not can be the source of your stress or a place where your mental health is tested tonight as we continue with the mental health talk series we look at the contributing factors at work navigating your office while dealing with a mental disorder and how employers can create safe spaces to have open and honest discussions on mental health joining me in studio we have week Hollywood yani to my closest writer director and lead consultant at millennial HR and Patrick mobile counseling a psychologist at USI you Africa as well as our extended panel we have Jackie Kerr who is a counseling psychologist as well in life coach and will be speaking to us as well thank you so much for coming in but before we begin I actually had the opportunity to speak to a gentleman known as Cornell and got'em he is a former journalist and media practitioner a PR consultant who had a very interesting experience when it came to mental health and the workplace and actually found out he was depressed while at work take a look at this there is a time I just couldn't get up in the morning and some people might call it Monday blues but what I realized was with Monday blues sometimes you the fear of going to bed hungry and not paying rent overcomes the fear of going to work and you just push yourself and go but I got a point where I couldn't go and I couldn't even make up excuses I couldn't call in sick because I didn't know what was up I just didn't feel like getting out of bed I didn't feel like going to work doing anything and even eating so because some people you can feel like you don't want to go to work but you are very very willing to do other things to hang out with friends so for me it came as everything and at that time I missed work for a couple of days and then I pushed myself and went my boss asked me what or where I was I don't remember what I said I think I just said I was at home but I didn't pay much mind to eat and then it happened again for a very extended period of time and I realized I better get ahead of this thing I don't know what it is but I might as long as I'm communicating I'm better hope and not so what I did is I went to the HR manager and I just told them I'm not able to work and I don't know why so at first she thought I'm coming to resign I've got another opportunity and I'm like no no no I like I don't feel like doing anything very interesting insights that come out of Cornell sharing his experience and Patrick let me begin with you because just looking at the psychological aspect of it all in and him saying it wasn't just Monday blues it was going beyond not feeling like I wanted to work I didn't care if I didn't make a salary to pay my rent or even eat so when someone is feeling that way and you know for anyone who could be feeling how do I differentiate between a bad day and depression now I for one to be in depression there is an extended period of time you see just a bad day it could just be a day but when it's something that is extended over a period of time then it can't just be a bad day there must be something else and so for clinical depression to be diagnosed there has to be an extended period of time yes so of course when he went for the mental health check-up is when he realized okay probably needs to go for medication as well but week early one very interesting thing that he did was he could have held it to himself and not shared it with the employer but he said to get ahead of it and to deal with whatever this problem is I need to tell someone most people don't have the courage to do that for fear of being seen as weak and and feeling I may lose my job if I do reveal this this issue but what do you make of his decision to go to the HR department and and reveal that this is what he was dealing with I think that was a very brave decision as you say sometimes many people fear to state issues like this because of the stigma that they would receive the imagine that would be out on the firing line even sometimes when you interview people they know they they may have a problem but they were not disclosed during an interview because already they feel judged I so I think it was really brave to go and speak to somebody and of course he got the attention that I really wanted you know and someone should also have been concerned the fact that he hadn't been at work for some time a good line manager would want to understand where so-and-so away and they at work are they okay especially as he says he had been missing what for some time but I'm also quite impressed that he came and the person you spoke to not even the HR person impressed him and said who have you been you know and so I don't think all workplaces are like that that's that's the thing and that's the reality and fortunately Jackie's you will not have someone in HR or even a boss saying take some time out go get tested or if you need time to think through things that doesn't happen and often times you wonder is it because the structures are not there or even socially we don't have that empathy to worry about our neighbor or our employer or employee in terms of their mental health I think it's because maybe also the structures are not fair but I think the management needs to be made aware about also mental health not everybody in the management knows or knows what to do about mental health so I think the best way also to improve mental health in workplaces we need to teach the senior management how to support the other employees look at the signs and how will they be of help how will they empathize how will they handle them so I think also the management needs training more training on mental health awareness yes so you really have to condition people to think differently and behave different yes especially when it comes to someone dealing with a mental disorder but I'm just curious to to our mini audience would you be brave enough to reveal that to your employer and say I have a problem and have you ever done that well for me recently I was working at a place and I woke up one day for about four weeks I didn't feel like I wanted to do anything it's it's crazy because it sounds like are you lazy but it's not that you just literally feel that you're not able to get out of bed or do anything at all and for four weeks I would postpone seeing it cuz I'm like no you need to push yourself push yourself you need to do this but one day i I couldn't anymore so I woke up went to one of my bosses and said I can't I need just time I know I've come today but I don't even think I can last today yeah so can I just take a leave give me a week if I feel better after that that week then I'll come back but I literally just need a week and for me I think I was one of the could add a good or a good place so my boss was understanding and they were able to they said ok I just go yes sometimes that happens and was that the general experian have you worked anywhere else and probably revealed to the same information or was it the same reaction or something different um I think in the places before I didn't explain it when it happened I would just leave and then you realize the first week you're not you like you give sick leave because you know you don't know how to explain say like I'm not feeling well so you're just at home that week then you realize the next week you still can't and you realize can't keep on doing this to your employer so or just quits so that's that's what had been happening that previous bucket list is because I myself didn't know how to explain or articulate that to your boss and have them understand I mean Patrick you have to bring this to you because someone is watching and they're thinking I've gone through exactly what she is explaining or even what Cornell is explaining but I have no idea how to even begin to start that conversation with my employer for fear of course of being fired but how do you you have to be very strategic and tactical discussion how do you do it because you do need help No maybe we all begin is we cannot do a self diagnosis you know that's that's the other thing so first of all you need to be exposed to a professional that can diagnose you so that you can now be able to give a language and give some vocabulary what you are saying so just because you're not feeling well or entired or something that is in itself is not sufficient because again for one to be diagnosed to have a problem of any nature there is a series of things that were being looked at you know so there may be a view do you have appetite those kind of things what are you feeling about your strength are you having energy to do things you need to do what interests are you having av lost interest so there's a variety of things especially for depression that one has to look for so before somebody goes to the employer and packages that they need first have been diagnosed by a professional because then they have something they can say because even under normal circumstance for physical health you can't just wake up and say oh you know I'm sick of kidney failure how did you get normal you know somebody must have diagnosed that that the problem you're having is a kidney problem and it needs this kind of treatment so even for mental health if somebody has been diagnosed by professional that knows what it is then it becomes easier and that is why as we are seeing earlier the senior management can easily accept that you have a broken limp and you can stay home for one week three weeks until it recovers but if the mental health is something not tangible they can't quite see and feel so it is difficult to know that you are not okay so that is where the problem and I mean by a soft want to be able to tell that they need to have been diagnosed by somebody who knows what they are diagnosing so an individual can just wake up and come and say oh you know I'm suffering from anxiety disorder or I'm suffering from whatever nature of illness by yourself it's so difficult it's an invisible ailment which would no-one sees and and see here which was I also spoke to Cornell about that and he now was in a different job and went through a very very low point take a look at what he said about that experience the several times I would come to work and I would enter their parking lots go into my parking space and then I start thinking about all these guys were going to come to my desk with requests and they don't care about like how planned my day they don't care about interruption that would make me really anxious I used to have a lot of problem with that so I would think about that and I would just not leave the car and maybe I go to work at around 6:00 seven I would not leave the cow not go upstairs and I would sit in their car at some point I would go to the back seat Rebecca and lie in a fetal position because I'm scared of going upstairs it's not because I have a deadline it's not because I have a disciplinary issue waiting or I'm afraid of facing my boss I'm just afraid to go sit on my desk and say hi to people very interesting I mean you go to work you are there physically but you don't even step foot into the office and of course he's exhibiting anxiety in that centre act with anyone but we kindly if you are dealing with someone for instance like him and you're an HR professional or a boss it how would you begin to interact to this person and engage them because they're good at their job you hired them for a reason it's just they're going through something that they really can't control I think one of the things to do would be fast to really try and understand the person in the sense that I mean they are good worker but there will be those moments when you can tell they are not being themselves and so those pointers that tell you there is a problem is just trying to understand or speak to them and ask them what is it you know just with the listening yeah because if if they trust you then they can open up like I'm really anxious that I don't want to go to my desk because I can't face people then the conversation is like why do you feel like that you know because your job involves facing people you know and so perhaps this at this stage as I said if you are not already you don't know what you're suffering from I'm a baby that would be a good time to say can you go and have somebody speak to you and just assess what it is that is happening because you know your job involves ABCD and it really has to happen but just listening but in a way that you're not judging them I think and sometimes I hear a lot of people with mental health problems saying they just want somebody they can somebody who they can lean on not to be told have you done this have you done this have you done this because we are very good to prescribe you know and so for such a person I don't I don't go asking have you tried this have you tried this have you tried this it's about why were you afraid and getting them to get to a place where they can get professional help that I may not be able to give him and then sensitizing the people around them because I mean it's not his fearing people I don't know what they would come and ask him maybe it's just even simple greetings you know he's just feeling like they're invading into my space so how do you sensitize the people around them and tell them you know so-and-so needs to be treated differently but still at the same time you don't want them to make him feel like he doesn't deserve being there so it's really a balancing act and then I and of course the management as well you know you know you just need to know that John at some point he comes is he feels a little bit low we need to give him space because when he applies himself he actually works then I look at his workload maybe really they so saw something that he I know he said it wasn't about his work here but sometimes you can push work to people and we expecting them to come because when we push they're delivering and so you push push more than they're delivering because they're people who I just like that I mean my job is to come here it's a labor contract I do this unpaid and so what everyone has to do I will do and then it ends up actually really stressing you and so I would also worry about how much work am I throw into this person can i regulate it can I have it assigned to someone else and then I'll talk about just take a day off I know we don't talk a lot about mentor leave you know I think we need to have that even in our policies because even when somebody exhibits like they have a mental health problem I mean you are taught to go home or take leave sometimes you even protect leave you up your leave your leave is for resting it's not for when you are sick but because as you said you don't have a broken limb we can't really call it sick leave so your thought I mean we can't call it leave your detect just can't leave you know but actually I think there should be mental health leave but you know it's not even a millennium from them and sometimes before I want to think you know because because Millennials will say I can't just walk I want to go home and sometimes they're there just and she and actually they know what the issue is they just want a day to go and relax and deal with the anxiety yeah and Jackie let me engage you on that because unlike Cornell situation where he had an existing problem he knew what it was and he knew that's why it was affecting his performance what about if the workplace is causing that issue it's it's a toxic environment and you have to now navigate even co-workers who cause more stress how do you begin to manage that situation when it's the workplace it's a bit more complicated because as we started you mentioned it's the place that we spend more hours we just go home to sleep and then the next morning we are at it again so when the toxic relationship or the toxic the toxic environment is the workplace it's a bit complicated and that is why I'll still go back to the management if the management is sensitized and they can hear you out and they can help in to engaging the workplace and making it better is it the organization in the in the company that you're working in is it workload is it work politics because items work politics can also be very challenging is it at times it's also personal because peer pressure just is not just for the young ones peer pressure also happens in the work space so is it also self-imposed are you also not accepting yourself who you are in the workplace because of the people that you surround with the whole day so there are so many aspects that individually you need to do and also the organization can do to make the workplace better for you Tim the team-building activities having talks inviting people to talk about mental health that is also also going to sensitize their workplace sensitized other people either the employees in the organization and with that it's going to be easier for all of us employees management and the there are other people to work well and also be mentally healthy yes and I'm really curious because you'll find a lot of people who are caught and I'll put this also to to the audience in between I need to make a living I can't just leave this job because it's stressing me and so they find themselves just staying and having to deal with this very hostile environment which further exacerbates their condition how would you advise someone in any of you kind of made that decision to leave somewhere where it was just too much without maybe a safety net or a Plan B as anyone have you done that before no let me come to my panel I mean Patrick how would you just advise someone to be wise because yeah you need to make a living you need to take care of yourself but again your mental health is also at stake give a story of a friend of mine who was in a situation similar to what we are describing yeah and I think for him he gotta wake up call from his spouse yeah because a spouse told him you are the only one we have in the organization should you fall in fall and die today they'll simply replace you and life goes on so that woke him up that really I'm the only one they have my family only has me and so they helped him to realize that life can go on without you being in that organisation in the event that it gets to that far however sometimes it may not maybe it is managing yourself which is the issue like when Jackie was talking I was remembering some of the contributing issues that may be extended maybe we could even be coming from the from the family I remember when you had very young babies in my family in my house rather and you are waking up in the morning to go to work and that is when the domestic engineer or the one who helps his okay I'm also living now you have a small baby you need to go to work so that already is stressful so you may not perform in your place of work now if the person you're working with or working for or the the the person supervising your work does not go to understand what could be happening to you they may only be judging you on the basis of what is happening that place so I find that mental health is greater wider than just a small context in the workplace where you are and so of course if you have colleagues that are understanding that we don't go beyond just you have to finish this this is your deadline these are the reports these are what they also find out so how is family and all the other thing because that can also come in and interfere with the work that we are doing and again like we have been saying when our leaders or the top management do not understand then they may not appreciate what this person is actually struggling with the only interested in new delivering but even the machines I'm glad that we found refer to computer they also hung and so what I would advise somebody is your health is very important and you need yourself beyond your place of work because you can deliver that work anywhere else yes you know I wonder Carly from now the management HR perspective how do you do that practically in terms of taking it beyond the workplace because most employers will say that's not in my purview I only deal with what happens within these four walls whatever happens at home you handle so how do they do that practically to where you are really concerned about your employees outside of the workplace and you do give them the help they need outside I think one thing employers need to know is that time a productive employee is one whose life is really well all all around you know they won't come and be productive simply because you are giving them the right on environment what happens at home what happens even as they meet with their friends is really important and so employers need to start taking interest actually in the lives of their employees even outside like just asking things like how is their family you know and this is something Jackie said we need to train supervisors and managers to really know what it means to care to have emotional connection with your employees when you asked me about how's your family I feel like you care you may not even know all my children but one day you might even remember one and asked them by name I really feel Jackie knows even my last one you know and that is a connection that tells me my employer actually is concerned about me but that is actually food for the employees doing it so that you know you feel valued you know and also organizing trainings it's lemony there could be counselors who come and speak to people about their their welfare I remember one place where I worked in Tim we were really worried about the the stress of our mothers and we say it because you know when you have a young kid you think about going back home you're calling every now and then and she said you know what how about bringing your house girls we trained them in first hand we trained them in just out to take care of a young kid so that when you are seated at your desk you know my husband I shall know how to give us that knows how to do this not we didn't have to do that but actually you are concerned that if their mind you at work but your mind is not there your productivity will will not be good and at the end of the day trains are being expensive for everyone for the employee for the employer because you either go looking for other people to come and finish what has not been done by that person and so we have to worry about and even I mean and just listening to what colleagues say because also colleagues know people who do certain things like abused substance because of work or stress related to work so you know people who go and overdo it when they go to have a little drink we are not the ones who pass in other different places and listening to that feedback because you can always hear comments a leave that one alone you know and you can also pass something and smell something and you say you take an interest in that person I mean what happened to you why are you coming to work like this is there a problem you know not saying whatever happens out there is not my problem you know so the employers really have have to take care then having counseling services you know yeah things that your employees will not tell you however nice you think you are you know there are things that they can't open up to you but make it possible for them to open up to another person who can help them like having facilities where they can call for counseling having facilities where they can call a life coach or whatever the titles are these days but somebody who can listen to that which you can't deal with and just pay for it employees feel happy that by prior yes actually I've got off of a line I can call a cancel our own and it is paid for and I can talk for one whole hour and let my stress go you know so there are the things actually employers can do without totally being on your face but just showing that they care and I'm sure people will be flocking that employer once they find out oh we have counseling services we can actually take advantage of but I want to go to the last clip it's for my director do you know the last clip where Cornell actually shares the importance of safe spaces and the way to do that so you're not coddling the you know the employer and the employee who has a mental disorder but you're kind of creating a very conducive environment where everyone can talk about their struggle take a look at this you can start being that child of the boss where you only in anyone like triggers you and you go tell to the boss and so one of it one of the gaps I would say I noticed and I'm very keen and passionate about is employers to create not just a safe space for the person with a mental health issue to come to them but also to prepare the rest of the team to know that such things exist as such situations arise and you guys should be equipped to handle them all right so yet actually reinforcing that point you made Jacki of conditioning and training everyone you know I'm sure for anyone who's going to a mental health disorder you don't want to be that target yeah you have that on your back oh that's the one with the problem so we also have to kind of walk on eggshells every time we come around them because you are part of a team yeah and you're adding value to this company that's why you're there so how do you find that balance to where yes you need special attention but you're not a special person in in terms of how you're treated okay I think I think the training should not be for special attention as such it's for awareness acceptance but he is part of us he is going through a different challenge and believe me all of us go through challenges we all have different challenges but mine could be mental health yours may not be mental health so if so I should not be treated differently because my challenge was mental health so awareness will help the other employees just realize that this conditions exist this is one of us and there are times that's because of his condition he may be reacting differently and he may need to be treated differently so it's not for you to be special but just how to relate to you so that the team is still intact the team does not integrate in this integrates wherever you are feeling low the team understands that today you may come and you may not be getting out of the car and the team also understands when you're there you have shown up and you show up the team understands when you take medication so that you don't have to hide when you're taking a medication the team understands when you have your clinics if you have to go for the clinics and somebody else will sit in for you so it's not for you to be special but for you to function for the team to function and for everybody to function yes I think on the flip side of that anyone who knows okay I'm just not a people person but I love this aspect of the job does that mean I completely shelve that whole idea of you know applying for that particular opportunity and going to something that is more conducive for my personality or what would you advise someone who's going through a disorder where they there are certain things they just can't handle as much as they'd love to be part of this organization and what they do know what I'm saying is there are two ways you can go about it one of course if it's something you know maybe from a personality perspective it is something you can't handle then give it a chance you take what you can handle because you have a chance to do that but sometimes you don't have that chance that is where know there is need for growth there is need for you to stretch and grow because we all can make adjustments and we can be able to grow and learn so what I would say is take whichever part that works so that if it's a situation that that is what is available and there is nothing as you can do then you learn and grow with it but as I said earlier you don't stress yourself and kill yourself and thinking you must because again thinking of you must be the one to do it is a wrong perspective so one can grow so there is room for growth there is room for one to land and become something else that is possible but if one can do something that they feel best to do then they are more productive so I would say you can go either way but don't kill yourself just because you think you can be a super person you cannot and I want to get from Kareem really quickly in terms of you making that very brave decision to leave and people wondering what happens on the other side of that decision do you get into more depression because you have nothing to do or is it extremely liberating because you finally left the place that was causing you stress what what happened to be honest it is a double-edged sword because half of you is feels liberated you're like finally now I can I can breathe because I don't have to take in all these others it's it releases one aspect of the stress but then again now you don't have an income in you back to square one in your 20s so there is now an overwhelming depression that comes again after if you do if you're not taking help I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression so I constantly when I can't afford therapy I use apps or places or artificial intelligence apps that are therapeutic and that's how you cope with for me I cook you can't just leave and stay like that because you will get deeper into a depression and that's just the fact because the reality is we need to work make money so the moment you step out have a courageous it is you should also be prepared for the consequences and whether it needs you to get to therapy or get a support group or find if you at all cannot function in an 8 to 5 maybe your diet isn't a really high place then for me okay this is my my thoughts about it is finding a business or something that you can do with be around people that don't need you to be constantly around whether it's something that's online or something that doesn't allow that can help that doesn't need you to be constantly around too many people but yeah it is a double-edged sword so you need to the moment you make such a decision make sure that you can you can back up your mental health with either therapy or medication if that's what you've been diagnosed with alright great advice there and I think I'll wrap up with me Carly just in terms of how do we change the whole perception and narrative of HR departments which is often very negative wherever you go and I don't know why that is the case but out do we can you begin to kind of shift that and change that for any HR manager watching to be a bit more open I mean the casebook or for Cornell or even curve in a very rare but how do we begin to see more and more of those popping up in different parts of the country I think first I mean we've seen a lot of stuff happen at workplace we've seen people die or kill themselves we've seen people found dead in offices you know and not necessarily in Kenya but we read about this in other places so that tells you there's a problem if your HR person the first question you'd be asking yourself is why is this happening to my team what is it that I need to do to really support the people who are there so that they can feel they don't need to get into that space where they are not being listened to or they feel like they are alone and so I think we need really to work a lot on wellness programs at at workplace worried about our actually our employees well-being you know providing structures that help them you know it's like when we talk about we talk a lot about you know physical health and forget about mental health and yet it is just a hurt that you're so new to work on like any other you know because you feel yourself you feel I'm getting anxious that is something happening to my mind why am I getting anxious is it my workload I saw giving tips to employees and tell them the moment you are working and you feel like this stop or do this or go to this place or go relax sometimes the work environments are also so stressful you could be doing a job where you are standing at that time your legs you know you or you'll have to think completely concentrating on that on a screen and you need time to time out just to think you know so we have to look for ways that can help people just feel that they are welfare and their well-being and their workplace it is really being taken care of and avoid a lot of toxic environment because that also brings other dilemmas into into the workplace you know that those who are saying this the others who are saying that one is a nutcase I mean statements like those just make you feel I really don't belong here you know every time you are late oh now what happened to this one I mean talking to people how they really need to care about each other and not allowing or excusing silly comments that actually draw rub people the wrong way just being very fun we can't have you here talking like this this is a workplace we need to treat people with the respect you know so I think we there's a lot they can do but if they don't do it the workplace will only be a chaotic place and many people will will walk because I mean it just like you did you know you'll say is it my health or is it my job and as you walk and you'll survive because out there you also have a mechanism that supports you if I child I know came home how take care over so you have parents your friends who know what you're going through and so if your employer does not care to understand that and give you an environment that empowers you to deliver then in that case you'd rather you'd rather live and let you make money for the music that's the other thing you're not sitting there just doing you you are working so hard when you see the profits being declared you're just as in oh my goodness is this what we delivered and you feel it can even give you a lot of stress just you start comparing and how much do I am and I went to work when I was anxious I mean you go through all those things and you feel like no but HR people have to use to look for budgets because every time you want to do something you're always being told there's no money the budget is the budget is great those that budget that takes care of your because that is your job to be the one who creates a forum or an environment that empowers employees and enables them to their job right yeah and just popped in my head as you're speaking with Holly for you Patrick because when we talk about workplace we automatically by default to go to an office setting mm-hmm but that can be anything you know you have people on a construction site you have someone who's pulling a cohort any that's their workplace they're also going through stress they don't have an HR department to run to or structures how would you advise them when they're dealing with their own mental health stress to be able to you know maybe draw up their own life policy if you will you handle that actually I was thinking about the same and my colleague was talking because what you'll find in in in a working situation whether employed or self employed it's a working situation when we cannot determine our limits how much we can do and that goes back to objects in accepting this is the match I can do now that is good enough if individuals can define this is the match I can do i this is the matter will be able to make and I can be able to live within this now as I continue to grow and move somewhere else because the peer pressure she was talking about it is actually a big issue because somebody feels or by this age you should be able to do this my edge mates my colleagues and they are doing this I'm not able to do this so they push themselves beyond what their actual natural limits can manage so individuals should be able to know what are your limits except that is a limit and if you can grow yourself beyond that then grow gradually so that is not something so sudden that over stretches and individual because there are many unpredictable situations that arise now also as much as we talk about flexibility predictability gives peace when we able to know this what you are going to do and this how much I'm able to do now that is very helpful but if the two men and predict the printable things that is very stressful because you don't know to expect any given time now that can be very stressful so if we don't plan their work well so that the Caribous tell this when I should do this this I should do this and this skill I don't have then I acquired this skill to let me do this so that you have appropriate skills to handle appropriate things that you need to do so that for me I think we went for who are self-employed in fact they even Moss it supposed to stress than those are employed because you can ask for a time off from employer but if you are the sell yourself employee dude you are time off from challenge often times working ten times harder than those who are exactly thank you so much – Patrick – we Kylie Jackie and Corinne of course our extended panel as well for sharing your experience and yeah knowing your limits and listening to your body so you don't overextend yourself you only have one body in this life thank you so much for watching keep the conversation going on social media hashtag citizen week and I'll see you again next week

2 comments

  1. I was not epileptic, but i was stopped to work on a 5yrs contract. My God is grateful, after 2yrs am back again to a different company, Qatar

  2. I was working in Qatar, European company and i fainted in the work and i was deported back to Kenya.

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