Shifting FOCUS from fancy BENEFITS – TO – IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH. Indian Corporates must take the big leap

Mental wellbeing is very important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Mental health issues lead to many realistic diseases and disabilities that we can never imagine could be the root cause of such problems. Multiple analyses have been done on mental health problems and the studies show that they are as relevant in low-income countries as they are in rich ones, cutting across age, gender, and social strata. This further corroborates the prediction that the future will witness a definite rise in mental health problems.

In India individuals with psychiatric illnesses are deemed as being incompetent, irrational, and unreliable which invariably affects the individual being treated normally by society. This poses a huge barrier in individuals accepting themselves and confronting their problems and seeking the right treatment on time.

According to the 2016 National Mental Health Survey, 83% of people suffering from mental health problems in India did not have access to adequate mental health treatment.

The same year, India had three psychiatrists for every million people and even fewer psychologists, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Research conducted by the Suicide Prevention in India Foundation (SPIF) in May 2020 found that nearly 65% of 159 mental health professionals surveyed, reported an increase in self-harm among their patients. More than 85% of therapists surveyed, said they were experiencing caregiver fatigue, and over 75% said fatigue had impacted their work.

Another survey in April 2020, by the Indian Psychiatric Society, showed that, of 1,685 participants, 40% were suffering from common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, due to the pandemic.

Nelson Moses, founder of Suicide Prevention India Foundation (SPIF) showed the concern that the system was already creaking and overburdened, and now with the pandemic, we are experiencing the catastrophe of increased demand, woeful supply, and fatigued frontline workers.

Before Covid, World Health Organization released a report indicating that India had the highest suicide rate in South East Asia with 16.5 suicides per 100,000 people.

Post-Covid scenario, multiple cases of COVID-19-related suicides in the USA, UK, Italy, Germany, Bangladesh, India, and other countries have been reported in mass media and psychiatric literature. This has been inflated due to social isolation, anxiety, fear of contagion, uncertainty, chronic stress, and economic difficulties may lead to the development or exacerbation of stress-related disorders and suicidality in vulnerable populations including individuals with pre-existing psychiatric disorders, low-resilient persons, individuals who reside in high COVID-19 prone areas and people lost their family members because of COVID -19.

By what we have witnessed so far is that the 2019 coronavirus epidemic can undermine not only physical health but also individuals’ psychological resources and resilience. In a highly interconnected and globalised world, the impacts of the pandemic on a social and economic level have become evident since the outbreak. Its outreach has severe effects on the mental health of the general population and of workers as well.

The current Pandemic has shown us, some work-related and organizational factors could play a crucial role in exacerbating or moderating the effect on people’s mental health. In addition to various medical or economic issues, it is essential to analyze the psychological side of the pandemic as well and the factors related to mental health in the workplace.

Several occupational factors were found as relevant to intensify or moderate the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of workers. The importance of high-risk professional and organisational factors, such as work-related stress and lack of job support, and the presence of populations at greater risk for mental health problems such as migrant workers. The most vulnerable categories of workers seem to be front-line workers and health care workers, migrants, and young adult workers.

Physical Health & Mental health are not two different things, in fact, there are interrelated. So why ignore mental health just because is not visibly evident to the human eyes?

There is an alarming need for all businesses today, to be increasingly focused on addressing the health of their staff. Moreover, it is taking its toll on employees, some of whom fail to cope with the fast-paced changes and need support to avoid falling a victim to mental health problems.

Identifying the symptoms of Depression & Anxiety in Employees:


increase in overall sickness absence, particularly frequent short periods of absence

poor health (depression, stress, burnout)

physical conditions (high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, sleeping disorders, skin rashes, headache, neck- and backache, low resistance to infections)

Work performance

  • reduction in productivity and output
  • increase in error rates
  • the increased amount of accidents
  • poor decision-making
  • deterioration in planning and control of work
  • Staff attitude and behavior
  • loss of motivation and commitment
  • burnout
  • staff working increasingly long hours but for diminishing returns
  • poor timekeeping
  • labour turnover (particularly expensive for companies at top levels of management).

Relationships at work

  • tension and conflicts between colleagues
  • poor relationships with clients
  • increase in disciplinary problems

Most of the corporates in India are now recognising the importance of Mental Health of their employees investing their resources to focus on approaches that can bring about change in the current work environment which would help the employees deal with the pressure of remote working and the paranoia that has been brought about by the current pandemic.

Few simple measures that many companies have stepped up to offer during these difficult times are listed below:

  • Health education to raise awareness of factors affecting health and well-being
  • Screening programs to detect risk factors or early signs of disease
  • Provide the extended three-day holiday weekends and give people other times off at random. This would help in increase of employees’ productivity
  • Altering the pace of work
  • To have a grievance handling SPOC for the issues pertaining to covid 19 or to address problems relating to mental health and wellness, as people come back into the workplace COVID-19
  • Action programs to do something the mental health concerns, issues to address like:
  • Formation of a Stress Management Group
  • The Listening Group- aims to develop a preliminary analysis of the nature and extent of organisational stress by listening to the views of the staff
  • Post -Listening Action Group – To draw up action plans to conduct an Organisational Stress Workshop on the basis of the findings of the Listening Group
  • The Action Groups- a number of groups were formed to take necessary steps to address the root cause

Employers need to take actions that make employees feel safe while also enabling them to meet their financial obligations and care for their families—two big factors that can compound mental health issues.

Whether we live in a society that recognises the importance of mental health or not in the persisting scenario where the conditions of stress have multiplied enormously over a small gap of time, it’s imperative for one’s own well-being to be watchful all symptoms so that it can be diagnosed well in time and nipped in the bud.

In the current remote working conditions, it’s not the additional perks like gymnasium at work, a play area that matters anymore. Of course, that is added advantage which can relieve the stress of employees when at the workplace. But the need of the hour is to make sure your employees are healthy mentally & physically to cope with the pressures of a dynamic work environment and the isolation of remote working. Few pioneering organisations have been playing a pivotal role in educating their employees and their family members of its benefits and influencing change in mindset.

The definition of “Best places to work” is probably going to change in the given situation where the work from home is here to stay and managing stress from work & home is directly proportionate to employee’s performance. Thus, it’s imperative for all the organisation’s small or big to focus on improving Mental Health at large.

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