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Lifestyle Health and Wellbeing 08 Apr 2019 Opening up the menta ...

Opening up the mental health dialogue at workplace

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Apr 8, 2019, 6:06 pm IST
Updated Apr 9, 2019, 10:35 am IST
‘It can be a wonderful freeing moment’: opening up about mental health at work.
9 in 10 people who experience mental health problems, report facing stigma and discrimination; more than half say they experience that stigma the most at work. (Photo:Representational/Pexels)
 9 in 10 people who experience mental health problems, report facing stigma and discrimination; more than half say they experience that stigma the most at work. (Photo:Representational/Pexels)

London: The topic of mental health is always spoken about in hushed tones, whether it is in a family set-up or in the workplace. Despite celebrating mental health awareness days, many bosses are still not accommodating when it comes to mental illness. Employees prefer to lie about some sort of physical pain rather than address the mental health issue, reports The Guardian.  

“9 in 10 people who experience mental health problems report facing stigma and discrimination. More than half say they experience that stigma the most at work,” said Andrew Berrie, employer programme manager at the Time to Change campaign. “Although things are improving, 95% of employees would prefer to call in sick rather than reveal the truth,” he added.

 

“There is a huge disconnect between what senior leaders think the culture and openness is, and what it actually feels like on the frontline,” observed Geoff McDonald is the co-founder of minds@work, a network of professionals seeking to build psychologically healthy workplaces.

McDonald narrated an incident of a senior executive who remarked in a mindfulness class that ‘so these are the people who can’t cope in my business’. This kind of attitude is what indicates that the attitude towards mental health has not changed.

Organisations do not know the reality of what their employees go through. Dr Beverly Flint, a clinical psychologist from Camden and Islington NHS Mental Health foundation trust said, “They assume that no one in their office has mental health issues. I tell them: ‘But you do, you just don’t know about it. You will have people in the workplace who have a diagnosis.”

We are constantly told that mental health is similar to physical health. It is used in the context that, like a broken leg, mental health issues too can affect anyone; there is no need to be ashamed.

But the most obvious difference between the two is that- a broken leg has a definitive and diagnosable cure. It will heal like every other broken leg and it may not break again. But that is not quite how mental health and its treatment works.

“Despite it working differently, employers have a legal responsibility to treat both kinds of illnesses in the same way,” said Richard Martin, head of mental health at consultancy Byrne Dean. Employers can allow staff to take time off work for appointments, or work from home if it’s helpful or even reallocating tasks that they find stressful, suggests Berrie.

Knowing when to take time off for mental health problems can be tricky. Different diagnoses require different solutions. Some need temporary relief and time off work, while others need a more permanent solution to deal with a long-standing condition.

With the opening up of the dialogue, one can hope employees will face less stigma and more support when it comes to mental illness.

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