Nimhans helps people with depression get employment

Nimhans helps patients with training, skilling and reskilling.

When Sandhya’s (name changed) colleague found she was seeing a counsellor for depression, he decided to inform the bosses. This eventually led to Sandhya being called into a conference room and told to find another job. “They wanted someone who wouldn’t have anxiety attacks,” says Sandhya. 

Discussing mental health is a crucial part of the workplace, yet it is one of the last places anyone comes up and talks about it. Most of the time, employees are afraid of losing their jobs and being judged. “I was given a severance package of three months. It felt like a violation of trust. Since then, I have panic attacks if miss my deadline even by a minute. I wonder if I might be asked to leave this company too,” says Sandhya. 

Her present company is more open. However, she is still worried about how she is judged at work. She says, “I stick to myself and not talk to too many people. I know that there are going to be days where I won’t be able to function as well as the others.”

The Psychiatry Rehabilitation Services in Nimhans helps patients like Sandhya, and those with chronic mental illnesses, with training, skilling and reskilling. Dr Krishna Prasad, associate professor of psychiatry, who also works at the centre, says, “For the last couple of years, we have tied up with a few companies like Infosys, Cafe Coffee Day and Vasudev Adiga’s to provide employment for people with mental illness. Most patients are willing to learn but because of their illness, they aren’t able to focus.” Their age varies from 20 to 40. One of the biggest reasons why employees don’t talk about their illness to their superiors is the possibility of the information not being kept confidential. They also fear co-workers will create a hostile environment.

Prerna (name changed) had to quit her job at a radio station because she had to take care of her husband, suffering from a mental illness. She was depressed too. “I couldn’t deal with explaining it to my boss. I wanted to spend more time with him. So I tried to find a job closer home,” says Prerna. When she went looking for another job, she decided to let the recruiters know she was clinically depressed and they decided not to hire her.

“Despite me assuring that my depression would not get in the way of my work, they didn’t want to take a risk. Since then, I don’t talk about my mental illness at the interviews I attend,” she says.

She has now found a job that helps her cope. “The company has started an initiative to help employees deal with stress and other mental problems. They have free counselling sessions for all employees,” she adds.

Not everyone with mental illness can work. Dr Ajit Bhalachandra Dahale, assistant professor of psychiatry at Nimhans, says, “It is often difficult for people who are bipolar or schizophrenic to work in companies. It’s important they are properly diagnosed and helped.”

What companies can do

Employers can make work easier for those suffering from mental illness. Industrial psychologist Saswati Bharat explains, “An employee assistance programme is something many bigger companies are adopting. Asking every employee who suffers from mental illness to leave is not feasible. It’s important for the workplace to be sensitive but that shouldn’t mean that employees should use the depression card as an excuse every single time. If you are someone who suffers from a disorder, inform the HR or your superior. Take necessary precautions and try to be on the same page as others.”

 

Help at hand

Psychiatry Rehabilitation Services in Nimhans counsels and helps patients with chronic mental illnesses acquire job skills. The centre can be contacted on 26995289.

Cafe Coffee Day conducts two weeks of training for people with intellectual disability. They are trained as pantry executives. The supporting team is also sensitised on the intellectual and developmental disabilities of the employees.

 

How is work stress diagnosed?

When it comes to stress at work, doctors assess the ability of patients and their ability to cope. Most work-related illnesses are a result of the nature of the job and its complexity. We encourage employers to be supportive, for example, by giving instructions in a simple way.

If an employee is having an anxiety attack, it’s important employers recognise it, give a few days off, and suggest professional intervention.

“If you are a bipolar patient, it’s important you continue taking your medicines. Employers should make sure the routine remains the same, you get enough sleep and you don’t travel too much across time zones.”
- Dr Prabha Chandra, Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Nimhans

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