Before the 1990s, business in Kenya and much of Africa was a safe and stable affair since most big businesses were state owned and had a monopoly in their markets. Jobs were stable with huge perks and benefits as a way of retaining talent and making Africans take charge of their own economies. However, as a result of being a monopoly and being bailed out by the government when they were making losses, inefficiency was rampant and so was mismanagement since appointments to these organizations were politically based, where your allegiance to the party was more powerful than the contents on your CV.
With market liberalization, many players came into the picture and so the companies had to style up or ship out. Retrenchments and voluntary retirement schemes started happening. Organizations started revising their targets to beat competition and this meant more pressure to the workers. When benefits started eating into profits, more workers were let go and new ones came in albeit with lesser pay. This means that workers were required to do more or have more qualifications to retain a job.
As this was happening, persons with disabilities were dealing with their own challenges especially the challenge of accessing higher education in Kenyan Universities. By the time the ‘liberalization’ happened on their side, majority of the lot had gone into education, and are still doing so as there isn’t much sensitization that has been done to tell persons with disability that they can do any course they wish. Discrimination in different job sectors worsen the problem and this feeds into the culture of boxing persons with disabilities into certain careers.
Maybe due to the Great Resignation Crisis, the stresses of the workplace might not end any time soon but they will end when the world has completed its adjustment into the new normal that is a hybrid of working rom home and coming to the office on occasional basis. Kenya is not yet as advanced in terms of a sophisticated job market where the employee has a sway over the employer just as it happened outside enough to cause organizations to give employees a free hand in the workplace provided, they have done what is required of them during the day.
As more and more persons with disabilities are getting into the job market, there needs to be a mechanism for them to be able to deal with work related mental health issues. To start with, persons with disabilities have a ton of deep-seated stresses due to the fact that they have faced a lot of difficulties before getting to where they are. If work related stress is added, the mental health burden becomes heavier. More to this is the fact that as a result of getting used to mental abuse issues unknowingly, persons with disabilities may not be in the most comfortable position to pinpoint what might be stressing them. They will only point out to symptoms of what is disturbing them but not the actual cause.
In addition, there is the issue of trust. Persons with disabilities may be a hard nut to crack because of perennially being let down by people they trusted they could help. This means that even if someone outside the disability realm wanted to help them, their efforts will hit a dead end because the person with disability will be economical with trust.
As previously stated, most people with disabilities have some degree of counselling psychology by virtue of having done education, on which psychology is taught in hindsight so that teachers can best understand a learner and be in a position to help them academically. A few others have done psychology from the onset since in the eyes of the society, psychology does not have a lot of movements in the office which is a perfect fit for a person with disability because of their limited mobility. These can be recruited as resident psychologists in an organization to be able to assist their fellow persons with disability in the organization should they feel overwhelmed emotionally with office work. They are easier to open up to since they are literally cut from the same cloth that is disability.
At the same time, the resident psychologists can help put up organizational structures that would be instrumental to preventing mental health issues with or without disability with a special focus on workers with a disability. The organizational structures then means that these mechanisms can be engrained into the organizational culture to ensure everybody is on the same page in matters mental health and to ensure longevity and continuous and periodic improvement of the organizational collection of knowledge about disability and mental health issues in the work place. The HR and other departments are able to develop work schemes that are congruent with the emotional welfare of everyone in mind, with or without disability, such as prompt payment of overtime dues. The spiral effect is that the organizational view of persons with disability changes for the better and they are not seen as objects of pity and the poster persons of CSR activities.
The other effect is that organizations like Riziki Source can help build a network of counsellors on matters disabilities who can then be forwarded to institutions to check the preparedness of the organization and the person with disability in the organization. Eventually we will have a sufficient number of personnel who can deal with mental health and disability issues whether in the workplace or not, and ensure that persons with disabilities can get help faster and easier. Gradually, persons with disability will have achieved a balanced sense of personal development by having a stable source of income, a healthy state of mind and a social life that build up to personal fulfilment and joy.
Mental wellness is as important as physical wellness. Lets take care of it.
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