Mental Health in the Nigerian Workplace: A Silent Crisis

Mental Health in the Nigerian Workplace: A Silent Crisis

By Dr Rasheed Azeez—writes from Lagos State University, Ojo

In recent years, the conversation around mental health has gained momentum worldwide. Yet, in Nigeria, this crucial issue remains largely in the shadows, especially within our workplaces.

The pressures of the modern work environment, exacerbated by the ongoing macroeconomic imbalances, have spotlighted the urgent need to address mental health among employees.

A landmark review published in the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behaviour by Kelloway, Dimoff, and Gilbert (2023) highlights the profound impact of mental health issues on both individuals and organizations.

The review highlighted the fact that mental health is not merely the absence of illness but a continuum ranging from thriving to struggling and, in severe cases, mental illness. Nigerian workplaces need to understand this spectrum to promote healthier work environments.

The consequences of neglecting mental health in the workplace are significant. Employees experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and burnout often show reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates.

The review estimates that in the US alone, the cost of absenteeism and lost productivity due to mental health issues is over $300 billion annually. While similar comprehensive data is lacking for Nigeria, the economic impact is undeniably substantial. Moreover, stigma surrounding mental health remains a pervasive problem, discouraging employees from seeking the help they need.

This stigma not only affects the individuals but also the overall workplace culture, leading to further isolation and reduced morale among employees.

Nigerian employers have a critical role in addressing this crisis. The review suggests several key strategies for promoting mental health in the workplace.

First, organizations should foster a culture where mental health is openly discussed and supported. This involves training managers to recognize signs of mental distress and to provide appropriate support.

Second, providing access to mental health resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counseling services, and flexible work arrangements, can make a significant difference. Employers should ensure these resources are accessible and encourage their use without fear of stigma.

Third, implementing preventive measures, such as stress management workshops and regular mental health check-ins, can help employees manage stress before it escalates into more severe issues. Finally, employers should offer accommodations to support employees dealing with mental health challenges. This can include flexible working hours, reduced workloads, or temporary changes in duties.

Addressing mental health in the workplace is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic one. Organizations that prioritize mental health can expect to see benefits in employee satisfaction, productivity, and overall organizational health.

As Nigeria continues to grow and develop, our workplaces must evolve to meet the mental health needs of our workforce. The time to act is now.

Through the promotion of a supportive, inclusive, and mentally healthy workplace, Nigerian employers can contribute to a healthier and more productive society. Let us break the silence and stigma surrounding mental health and work together to create environments where all employees can thrive.

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