Mental health illnesses are on a rise however its awareness is still lagging both in the business world and outside of it.
The cost of mental health conditions (and related consequences) is projected to rise to $6 trillion globally by 2030, from $2.5 trillion in 2010, according to a study published by the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health.
The pandemic CODID-19 has added fuel to the already blowing mental health situation in the world causing greater fear, anxiety and depression over uncertainty in the economy, lay-offs, financial crisis and an unexpected shift in the work-life.
Previously a taboo topic in the workplace, mental health is now emerging out of the closet and seeking watchful attention from stakeholders of businesses.
Mental health trends in India
According to a recent survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatric Society, a 20 percent rise in mental illness cases is expected. In other words, one in five Indians will suffer from some or other form of mental ill-health. The problem is that support and infrastructure for mental health not only lack here but the recent pandemic has also widened the gap between help available and help needed.
Mental health matters at the workplace: Two-pronged problem
Inclusion of people in the workplace suffering from mental illness
In recent years, decisive and deliberate efforts to accommodate specially-abled individuals in the workplace have led to a slight increase in their numbers. However, of all specially-abled individuals, the progress with the ones suffering from mental ill-health such as anxiety, depression, alcohol or substance abuse has been sluggish.
Even though organizations such as WEF and WHO have played a key role in spreading awareness of mental health, it continues to be the most stigmatized and misunderstood topic in the workplace. Employers still struggle with accepting individuals who have recovered from depression or are undergoing treatment for it.
At present, mental health is in the spotlight and for good reason. It is high time that employers recognize and understand its omnipresence in society and take adequate steps to accommodate and create suitable positions for the mentally ill in workplaces. Contrastingly, barring them from the workplace is a regressive approach leading to an overly conservative, non-innovative culture unfit for future success.
Developing a culture where mental health awareness is a top priority
COVID-19 forced managers to address employees’ health concerns including mental health issues such as anxiety, fear, depression. Although the cause was the pandemic, seeds were sown for a new beginning for mental health awareness and initiatives at the workplace.
Today, human resource professionals are taking a lead in addressing mental health issues and for that, they are collaborating with experts to help them. Neither the managers nor the employees are properly trained to address, recognize, and seek help for mental health issues.
The first step to deal with employees’ mental health issues is to develop a culture where employees feel safe, secure and at ease to discuss their problems without fearing negative reactions from their bosses.
To that point, the following measures can help to address mental health issues at the workplace
De-stigmatizing mental health
The deeply embedded stigma associated with mental health entails a universal brainwash and to that effect managers have a great load of work ahead of them starting from recreating the organizational culture. Creating a conducive culture would require aggressive training to employees giving them lessons on mental health etiquette so that they are capable of helping their peers, juniors, and families.
The simple act of listening to employees, empathizing with them helps to alleviate their negative feelings such as loneliness, insecurities and lack of motivation. At present, the essence of relationships has undergone a sea of change with more and more people living alone in a fast-paced word. In these circumstances, mental health issues related to not finding anyone to share one’s feelings are quite common and to that end, workplaces and managers have to devise strategies so that employees are not left feeling solitary.
Having a third-party—an organization, a counselor or a chatbot on board to assist employees with mental health issues is an efficacious approach. Generally, employees are more comfortable speaking about their problems with a neutral person who is not from the office rather than the direct manager or peers.
Another assertive approach towards breaking barriers that exist around mental health is to develop support groups and associations. These employee networks proactively encourage others to have conversations with them, they are available 24/7 and equipped to maintain the confidentiality of the employee seeking support.
Organizations and their stakeholders have resolved to the fact that flattening the curve of mental health challenges would primarily require awareness, openness and promptness. Today, employee well-being is in the limelight and employers are willing to deep-dive into this subject so that they prepared to engage employees regarding mental health
The two-pronged approach entails that managers require the right training, digital tools and resources to be able to support their employees and peers in the pursuit of mental well-being and at the same time not single-out mental health as a cause of not accommodating otherwise talented employees.