A few months back, Arghyadeep (name changed on request) quit his first job at a news organisation in Kolkata. He was a fresh college graduate then and landed a decent job in the heart of the city. The reason behind his resignation? Arghyadeep was bullied by two of his senior colleagues at work, and with every passing day, the matter was clearly going out of hand. Desperate, he reached out to his immediate boss as well as the company HR with a written complaint, but to make matters worse, his complaint was brushed aside as a trivial issue.
Arghyadeep, who had lost his father at a very early age, sought outside help. He visited a counsellor who intervened in the matter and sought to bail the former out of the situation. “From my experience, it became amply clear that the company did not have any mechanism at place that would allow the employees to counter mental distress resulting from work-related issues,” points out Arghyadeep.
Dr Sristhi Saha, a psychiatrist based in Kolkata, also points out the same. Admitting that an increasing number of organisations in the country have initiatives that are extremely lopsided, Saha says that they focus largely on the physical well-being of an employee and ignore their mental well-being.
“An employee may be perfectly fit and sound physically, but we never know how troubled they are from within. The human mind is very difficult to understand. So, unless there is a proper mechanism at place to address these issues, these problems will continue to persist. It is quite unfortunate that there aren’t adequate programs aimed at addressing employees’ mental well-being,” says Saha.
Apart from being the fact that there should be a proactive approach to mental health at workplaces, employers should also be well-equipped and know how to identify signs of mental health issues, thus helping in creating awareness about it. That would help weed out factors creating a negative workplace environment in the first place.
In 2017, the Mental Healthcare Act was unanimously passed in the Indian Parliament. Various provisions under the Mental Healthcare Act have ensured that “every person will have the right to access mental healthcare services.”
Further, the Act seeks to protect such persons from inhuman treatment, help them gain access to free legal services and their medical records, and give them the right to complain in the event of deficiencies in provisions.
“With the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, some efforts have been made to provide people with necessary access to treatment for any mental illness. Having said that, not every sector has completely implemented them,” says Dr Nishit Majumdar, another psychologist in the city of Kolkata.
“It is high time that organisations also introduce policy-level changes to destigmatise mental health issues. The society we live in continues to stigmatise mental health diseases and it’s a taboo to talk about them in public, at large. Just like sick-leaves, organisations might also consider introducing mental-health sick leave as an experiment,” Dr Majumdar opines.
Psychologists are also of the opinion that while companies often focus on the productivity of their employees, they must also offer the right environment to improve and/or maintain productivity. A speedy redressal system, according to them, will help victims of bullying or harassment to come out more often and talk about their distress.
So, what exactly can companies do to ensure their workplaces are safe for employees to discuss
“The line managers must be trained so that they understand what an employee is going through. That will give them a hint to recognise the early signs of depression and anxiety,” says Dr Saha.
A recent pilot study by a group of leading psychiatrists based in Kolkata revealed that nearly 43 percent of employees in corporate India suffer from depression and anxiety issues. There is a good chance that the numbers will go up considering that stigma continues to be attached to openly admitting that one is suffering from mental health problems.
Dr Majumdar suggests that organisations should give priority to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at least once in a month and, of course, be understanding and approachable towards employees who suffer from mental health issues. Comprehensive guidelines need to exist as well where employees can reach out in times of need instead of feeling unwanted and more alienated.
“Their message should be – it is absolutely okay to seek professional help and visit a therapist. It is not a crime if you feel down and speak about it. It is also normal to take part in the EAP as well,” adds Dr Majumdar.
“On October 10, Uber launched their customised stress management programme called ‘Thrive’. This was done to ensure that every employee at Uber understands that mental health needs to be given the importance of physical health. Building a culture that is inclusive, open and based on trust is the need of the hour in these challenging times,” Dr Saha signs-off.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.