The Importance of Mental Health Support in the Workplace and How to Bring Change

By : |September 14, 2020 0

Work-life has always brought along with it issues like excessive anxiety, lifestyle disorders, insomnia, depression, and loneliness, leading to self-doubt and self-harm. However, the global pandemic and the lockdown have brought these problems to the fore. Also, the work from home culture, social distancing and self-isolation have made it more evident than ever that we pay serious attention on our mental health. And the problem of declining mental health is growing more amongst entrepreneurs. Sometimes, the most creative and brilliant amongst us are the most troubled. And nowhere else is this more visible than in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The mental health epidemic is for real. The figures are alarming. 1 out of every 5 Indians is suffering from a mental disorder. Almost 50% of entrepreneurial India is under debilitating stress. About 30% of these people report cases of addiction and marital discord, and 20% of them are victims of depression. Overall, 57 million Indians are affected by depression and 36% are much likely to fall prey to a mental health ailment at some point in their lives. There is a need for a robust discourse around mental health that we even act upon.

The Mental Health Crisis in Start-ups

An entrepreneur is someone who passionately and innovatively pursues a novel idea from conceptualization to actualization as a result of a need or challenge discovered in the market. Global thought leaders recognize the extraordinary value that start-ups add to job creation, economic development, and the commercialization of creativity.

But such impeccable performance comes at the cost of these founders’ mental health. Entrepreneurs are trained to be stoic and ignore the qualitative needs of their well-being, measured in meaningful relationships and overall happiness and life satisfaction. They are driven by the idea that success is purely measured in profits, quantitative returns, and return on investment. This causes an irreversible mental breakdown in many cases.

The Action Plan to Extend Mental Health Support

Only creating ‘mental health in the workplace’ policy on an ad hoc basis does not achieve the purpose. Organisations need to think seriously about prevention and response relating to a variety of possible illnesses and scenarios. We need a culture change. And some steps in this direction can be:

Destigmatization

Open communication and showing support for founders can be a positive endeavour in this direction. Investors can lead by example and let founders know that it’s okay to be vulnerable and talk about the mental health challenges that they are facing. Founders need to discuss their journey and that includes opening about the hardships as well that they have had to go through to bring their initiative to fruition.

Wellbeing resources

We often forget how most founder are financially constrained. Just because they have raised millions in recent funding does not necessarily mean they have the personal capital to seek help and support. Some portion of the financing rounds must be earmarked for the founders themselves. Investors must encourage founders to invest in their well-being and development.

Remember the Mind-Body Connection

Mental, emotional and physical well-being all closely link to one another. Just as mental health issues result in substance abuse, a lack of adequate physical exercise or nutrition can also lead to a disturbed state of mind. Hence, entrepreneurs must indulge in physical activity of their choice, eat well and consider doing yoga or meditation.

Build Personal Connections

Founders need to maintain a support network for themselves. They can join a peer network, engage with old friend circle. Even, go out on a date or family nights or make new friends. This will help them take the pressure off their minds and ensure that they have a life outside their work.

Set Priorities and Not Tasks

Instead of a task list, entrepreneurs must prepare a daily priorities list. Here, they should only list the important and urgent items. Finishing these items may be more demanding, but getting them done is more satisfying.

Adopt Vigilance

Entrepreneurs and their employees must know the warning signs of depression and other mental health disorders. Those who suffer from these ailments never reach out for help, rather they just drown in them. Hence, people around need to keep a watch for the signs and call out when required.

Counselling Sessions

Organisations must also have a mental health counsellor. They should conduct training sessions to help the workforce deal with stress as well as for counselling those tackling mental health challenges.

Summing it up

The geopolitical climate is volatile. Within this, the start-ups are striving to add social and economic value. Hence, the valuations of an entrepreneur’s success must include qualitative measures of sound mental health; besides the quantitative measures of a high return on investment.

[Note: This article is written by Dr Sandeep Gandhi, Industrial Psychologist & Founder, Serefe.org]

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