How Leaders can impact workplace mental health

In Nigeria, an estimated 20–30 per cent of our population are believed to suffer from mental disorders. This is a very significant number, considering that Nigeria has an estimated population of 200 million. I personally believe this statistic is higher for those working or doing business in Lagos, and the reasons for this are not farfetched. Asides work, family and economic pressures (which by themselves put enough strain on our mental wellbeing), commuting to and from work compounds this strain as you have to deal with bus drivers, marwa and okada riders, bad roads, articulated vehicles etc.

This year’s theme for Mental Health is on Suicide prevention. According to WHO, every 40 seconds, someone loses their lives to suicide. Suicide and suicide attempts have ripple effects that impacts on families, friends, colleagues and the society at large.

As business leaders , firstly let’s access our individual mental health and SEEK HELP if needed. The earlier help is sought, the quicker the issue(s) can be resolved. Depression, Excessive fears or worries, Suicidal thoughts, Anger management issues, Sleeping problems, Paranoia, Extreme mood changes, Concentration problems and Excessive use of alcohol or drugs may indicate early symptoms of mental disorders.

Secondly, let’s create a culture where employees feel safe to talk about their mental health issues and can get support. The stigma associated with mental health, being treated unfairly, becoming the subject of office gossip or compromising continued employment with the company are all legitimate fears, which need to be considered in creating this culture.

As leaders let us:

  1. Prioritize wellness and wellbeing at work
  2. Pay attention to our employees
  3. Be more flexible with work
  4. Introduce mental health initiatives (and let’s be creative with this, so that you don’t have unintended consequences).

In this era where the war for talent is fiercer than ever, placing employee health and wellbeing at the heart of business will help attract and retain talent, improve productivity and happiness, and consequently impact on the bottom line.

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