The Institute of Public Administration and Management of Namibia (Nipam) last month hosted a mental health seminar in order to raise awareness on the issue and its effects amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
The seminar was hosted to help in establishing an advocacy platform for various institutions, scholars and individuals to share their views and commentary on many topics emerging from the discourse current and past trending in Namibia, regionally and around the globe.
According to Nipam’s executive director Maria Nangolo, mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and job stress are common, affecting individuals, their families and co-workers, and the broader community. In addition, they have a direct impact on workplaces through increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased costs. Nangolo said the seminar is not only educating the public about mental health but also to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness are often subjected to.
The seminar highlighted various barriers that can at times prevent people from different backgrounds from seeking and accessing help with mental health issues. Such a discussion was aimed at helping participants to understand the fact that mental health issues affect people from all walks of life, men and women of all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. According to one of the presenters at the seminar, Yvonne Stramiss, a psychology counsellor, promoting mental health and wellbeing requires an understanding of cultural diversity, including respect for differences and a willingness to learn and accept different ways of viewing the world.
The seminar unpacked the quite common and uncommon causes of mental health problems and highlighted that mental illness is a result of a complex interplay between biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors and that there is also increasing evidence that both the content and context of work can play a role in the development of mental health problems in the workplace.
Presenters suggested that issues such as language barriers, underemployment, unemployment, isolation and separation from family are often associated with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and can be felt acutely by new migrants to our cities from other cities or rural areas. Cultural differences, homesickness, discrimination, the stigma of seeking assistance, and a lack of knowledge of available support can aggravate these.
“We want to sensitise Namibian communities that mental illness is a reality and an extremely dangerous enemy concerning social well-being. We want to let our stakeholders know the importance of identifying people living with mental health challenges so that they feel and know that they are not alone,” said Selma Kamanya, Miss Namibia 2018 and mental health activist.
She added it will be in the best interest of local communities if all institutions and organisations were committed to supporting fellow workers and individuals who are struggling with mental health issues. “An important part of ensuring wellbeing is the assurance that all Namibians, regardless of their culture are aware of and can access the help and services they need and are supported by institutions employing them,” Kamanya said during her presentation.