Lawyers raise concern over work-related mental stress, ask for help
MENTAL HEALTH | By Valentine Zablon | April 8th 2022
Mr Kipkoech says he lost two clients he was representing in court. The two were killed and their bodies dumped in forests.
“I got scared because I felt the people responsible for their deaths would come for me next. I still get scared when handling cases of public interest,” he says.
He notes that lawyers should once in a while visit mental health professionals to help them deal and heal from such experiences.
Mr Kipkoech cites a case where lawyer Hassan Nandwa disappeared on October 28 in Nairobi’s city centre, hours after his client Elgiva Bwire, a former terror convict, was allegedly abducted.
Mr Nandwa would later be found alive, dumped in Mwingi. However, Mr Bwire has not been found to date.
The new LSK president, Eric Theuri, admits that the profession puts a lot of pressure on lawyers as they try to deliver to their clients.
He says it can be harmful to the fraternity if help is not sought.
“Having trusted colleagues to talk to when lawyers have issues is very important because it may be hard for colleagues to tell when one lawyer has personal issues,” says Mr Theuri.
He discloses that he once took a break after being overwhelmed.
“I went through lots of pressure and my friends stepped in and advised me to take a break. They were helpful,” he says.
He notes adding that his leadership will help raise awareness to lawyers to help those undergoing pressure instead of stereotyping them.
“Lawyers facing mental illness are always viewed as weak. That should not be the case, since they are also human beings,” he adds.
Mr Kipkoech also wants the Judiciary to make the public aware of the role of lawyers and stop the ‘myth’ created that they are criminals.
Serah Wanjiru, a counselling consultant, says that lack of mental health awareness leads to poor work performance and low productivity.
Ms Wanjiru says mental illnesses like depression interfere with people’s ability to complete a physical job.
“Mental illness reduces the ability to perform a job by 20 per cent and ability to reason by 35 per cent,” she says.
The medic now wants the government to prioritise the mental health agenda by collaborating with scientific disciplines, professional groups, policymakers and the public.
“The government must implement laws that will help curb mental health-related issues,” says Ms Wanjiru.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in 10 people suffers from a mental disorder.
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