By Thandiwe Kubere

MASERU – Mental Health problems, have seemingly claimed their space in the lives of young people, placing them at the verge of giving up instead of striving towards their goals. With any sort of physical harm or injury, healing is quickly sought and the wound is delicately addressed, but what happens to those unseen wounds, what happens then, when they are left unattended?

The consequences of failing to address adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives. Promoting socio-emotional learning and psychological well-being, and ensuring access to mental health care are critical for health and well-being.

Licenced Psychologist Mosele Shale, explained youth have a tendency of surrendering to external forces. They take in too much pressure until they feel like giving up all together. “One day you can no longer get out of bed, you cannot find joy anymore and enjoy things you used to enjoy, you isolate yourself, and then what? Are you still going to operate at your best?” she asked. “The answer is no.”

She went on to explain how wrong it is to ‘easily’ treat mental health issues like they do not matter, whereas, other bruises are treated differently. “There is a bandage we put on when we get hurt physically, but what about mental bruises? We leave them and go on with life, until they lead to a mental breakdown. Our ignorance surpasses understanding. ‘Oh you are feeling depressed? Oh no, shake it off!’ But is that really how we are supposed to deal with mental health, can you really say that to someone with a broken leg?” She posed a question.

She noted a big number of entrepreneurs are, in a terrible way, at risk of developing mental illness. This is because they focus more on growing their businesses quickly, unaware that they are neglecting their mental health.

Moreover, a lot of people are familiar with legendary business founders, who often tell of their motivating stories which inspire others. “They manage to engage us, persuade us, and inspire us. But, they leave out the most important chapter in their stories, which is how they really felt during troubling moments which affected their mental state. They probably do not share those parts because of fear of being judged by their business partners, investors, clients or employees”, she said.

She further advised young entrepreneurs, that even though they work hard in growing their businesses and contribute in improving the economy, it is important to operate in a good emotional and mental state. Adding that, entrepreneurs are essential for their country’s future prosperity by creating jobs, enhancing prosperity, enabling competition and introducing technological products and services. Unfortunately the challenge around entrepreneurship is that there is no room left for vulnerability.

Mental health in workplaces is also a significant issue that has gained more attention in recent years. The boundaries between personal and professional lives have become increasingly blurred due to changes in work dynamics, such as the rise of remote working and hybrid business structures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that decent work is good for mental health. Poor working environments, including excessive workloads, low job control, and job insecurity, pose a risk to mental health. According to studies, globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

Shale declared the most successful businesses, which grow fast and make more money often come with a lot of sacrifices, and those include psychological wellbeing.  She therefore declared, entrepreneurs are twice as likely to fall into depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

“And all these factors, hinder entrepreneurs from operating at their best. The results are burnouts, conflicts,  excessive worrying, lost interest, social withdrawal, poor decision making, inability to show up to important meetings. So we need to change the way we think. We should promote a culture of openness so that entrepreneurs can seek help when they need it. We are here to support them.” She added that youth need to take care of those areas of their lives. She urged them to recognize their stress and pressures and try to manage them as soon as possible before they adversely affect them.

There are effective actions to prevent mental health risks at work, protect and promote mental health at work. For instance, creating psychologically safe spaces, promoting positive mental health and wellbeing programs at work to break the stigma are some of the measures that can be taken.

She further advised on some ways to reduce stress at work. They include not taking on too many stressful things at once, which can be done managing workload effectively and not overcommitting. Again, talking to somebody one trusts can be helpful: this could be a colleague, friend, or family member. Sharing feelings and concerns can also help alleviate stress. Trying new relaxation techniques: Techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, or guided imagery can help manage stress.

She encouraged entrepreneurs to find a good balance between work and social life, even though it is quite difficult when the business is at its developing stage. “Seek support so that you do not become lonely and isolated. Practice self-care and wellbeing”.

Furthermore, the idea of doubling productivity by doing multiple things at once is quite appealing for busy people. However, several studies show that in most cases, multi-tasking can negatively affect productivity and efficiency. Focusing on more than one task at a time, repeatedly switching back and forth between two or more tasks, or focusing on many things in a short period of time can all be considered ‘multitasking’ and they can all leave one less focused and efficient. This is because it takes time for the mind to adjust to a shift in focus; each time a person switches their focus, they are creating another need for the mind to re-focus, and this can drain time and energy. It can also mean that when multitasking between more than one activities that requires thought of focus, it takes longer than it would have taken if the focus would be on each task individually.

Shale concluded by urging young entrepreneurs to take care of their thoughts and emotions because that is important for mental health. This is because unhealthy emotions lead to unhealthy behaviours. She mentioned it is worth taking note that, while entrepreneurship can bring money, opportunities for personal growth, fulfilment and achievement, adopting strategies to prioritize mental health can contribute to a long life, wellbeing, maintained success and confidence. “So from time to time, do that rain check, ‘ did I worry too much, how was I today, did I lack sleep, did I eat a lot, did I not eat’. Those are small things in our daily lives, which we need to take care in order for us to be good.