What employers need to know about depressed staff members

Thursday October 06 2022
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The fact that you know that you can do something about a staff member who has a depressive illness is an excellent sign that stigma against mental health in Kenya is reducing.

Years ago, society had not accepted that depression is common and treatable. The question employers resorted to when dealing with a depressed employee was, “What is the most efficient way of getting rid of them?”

Ensure that your organisation is not only caring, but also modern and has embraced modern attitudes. A question comes to mind: How do you find out that a member of staff has depression?

In Kenya, an increasing number of young people have shed the cloak of mental health stigma. It could be that the employee came up to you and simply stated that they had been diagnosed with depression by their doctor.


The staff member could have done so as a matter of course, and they do not expect you to do anything beyond disclosure of what they may consider a material fact. In such a scenario, all you should do is encourage the person to continue to follow-up with the doctor, and to keep you informed, in the same way, should the need for more action be deemed appropriate. You could also tell them that you are available for support at any time.


In another scenario, you may have learned of the diagnosis from a doctor or the insurance company that is asking you to accommodate the needs of the employee, as they continue to receive treatment.

In such an event, you would need to confirm with the member of staff that assistance is required, and that you may consult with the medical provider on the best way of accommodating the person.

You may also reassure the person that the request made is in keeping with company policy, and that there is nothing to fear.

Different skills

There are many ways in which you become aware that a staff member has a depressive illness, and each case demands a different set of skills from you. With that said, however, mental health literacy is increasing rapidly among Kenyans, and that is a good thing.

The Mental Health Act was amended recently and reaffirmed in law. Mental health conditions must be treated at par with other medical illnesses when it comes to
the provision of insurance.

This is important because some employees are afraid of telling their employers that they have been diagnosed with depression because they may think the condition is not covered by health insurance. Any company that offers discriminatory cover is in breach of the law.

Frank Njenga is a psychiatrist and mental health consultant