Navigating mental health issues at workplace

Last Updated : 19 October 2022, 10:34 IST
Last Updated : 19 October 2022, 10:34 IST

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Mental health had come under the spotlight, in the wake of the pandemic, which also brought to the forefront the treatment gaps globally. In addition, it created a global crisis, fueling short-term and long-term anxieties, fears and grief.

The agenda of observing mental health day every year was to raise awareness each year and reduce stigmas around mental health. There is a separate theme each year. This year’s theme announced by the World Health Organisation is ‘Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority’.

As per a report by Deloitte, mental disorders in India account for nearly 15% of global mental disorders. In spite of this staggering data, the treatment gaps in India are also very large; there are only 0.7 psychologists/ social workers per 1,00,000 population available in India.

According to a study by NIMHANS, more than 80% of people do not access care services for a multitude of reasons, ranging from lack of knowledge, high cost of care and stigma, which remains the major impediment. The Deloitte report shows that more than 70% of the general public associate’s mental health with the term “stigma”.

“Normalising mental health issues is really the key,” says, Deepa A Agarwal, a DEI and mental health consultant. “We need to recognise that mental health is not only about mental illnesses. Rather, it is a spectrum, that has issues of daily life and the inability to cope with them in one of its ends. These, in turn, can deplete one’s energy and sense of fulfilment,” adds Deepa.

How corporates can help

Corporates can play a crucial role in not only providing greater access but also in normalising mental health. During the pandemic, business leaders were in agreement on the need to prioritise mental health services offered to their employees but now there is a danger that this may start reversing. A new research by Forrester Consulting suggests that many of the senior leaders surveyed plan to revert to their pre-pandemic status.

“If organisations do not stay focused on offering mental health services, it would be detrimental,” says Avril Quadros, a mindfulness coach. “After all, different coping mechanisms are now required to adapt to the new normalcy of hybrid work, travelling etc,” she adds.

“Employers should show a genuine commitment to their employees’ wellbeing and express their solidarity on issues that concern and impact everyone,” says Pradeep Patil, a Bengaluru-based industrialist.

Deepa says, “Often the Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) go underutilised due to fears of confidentiality and being judged. If employees feel that their management will view them negatively after having used the Employee Assistance service, even if the need is high, they will not access it. Therefore the need to sensitise leaders cannot be stressed enough.”

Laxmi Ravikanth, co-dean of mental health consultancy, says, “Companies need to create safe spaces and opportunities for employees to speak to peers or professionals in confidentiality. They need to allow for less stressful work situations, flexible hours and encourage periodic breaks.”

Encouraging communication

Avril says, “Employees also need to be educated on the range of issues for which they can approach a counsellor or a psychologist.” Because, daily problems such as sleeplessness, eating disorders, self-worth, assertiveness and phobias are not considered related to mental health.

Organising company-wide town halls that involve employees across locations and functions, to highlight issues can be very effective. In such events, leaders speaking transparently and openly will communicate the organisation’s intent.

“Constant nudges through posters in prominent places, creatives, intranet banners, emailers, and articles in newsletters are some easy-to-implement ways to awareness,” says Patil.

Equally important is to acknowledge that some employees may never feel safe or comfortable sharing and discussing their concerns with another person. A wide range of resources and options can therefore be offered, including expert-led workshops and short-duration retreats.

But it is important that accessing services or improving one’s mental health is not left to the availability of EAP programs. There are other ways in which one can continue to live a fulfilled life.

Meditation, thinking

Meditation can give people a sense of balance, peace and calm. Meditation has been proven to benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health and these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Avril says, “Meditation can help carry you more calmly through the rest of your day”.

The Government of India, multiple state governments, many PSUs and private companies across the country have understood the benefits of longer, more intensive meditation retreats, and have even granted special leave for employees to join meditation retreats.

One more habit to cultivate is to learn to channelise your thoughts in the right way. “These days, with the advent of social media, people check their messages or emails the minute they wake up or atleast within the first hour of waking up. This is extremely harmful, as one wakes up in the ‘on-mode’ leaving very little space to engage in any form of spiritual engagement, which is critical for wellbeing”, says Avril.

Eat well and exercise

Exercising has always been associated with physical health. However, the benefits of exercise transcend beyond ‘looking good’ to ‘feeling good’. Similarly, good nutrition can also significantly affect mental health. On the contrary, a poor diet can lead to fatigue, and impaired decision-making, and may even lead to and aggravate stress and depression.

Laxmi Ravikanth says, “It’s proven that well-trained lay professionals accessible in local communities could alleviate distress. Depression is known to be exacerbated due to several social deprivations—lack of education, stable jobs, housing, family stability, increasing isolation and loneliness etc, and these need to be addressed. This needs a multi-disciplinary approach to address depression and its concomitant effects.”

(The author is the MD of a leading fixture-building company who regularly writes on career-related issues)

Published 11 October 2022, 04:24 IST

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