The Corporate Mental Health Crisis in India

Do you remember the last suicide news you read about?

Was it a farmer? A weaver? 

The mindset is that these kinds of problems only plague these kinds of sectors where financial crisis usually pushes them over the edge. 

But what about the elephant in the conference room?  

The forgotten woes of entrepreneurs, founders, and business leaders. We equate their positions of power with success, wealth, and all kinds of goodness – including a state of healthy physical and mental well-being. 

But it took the suicide of V G Siddhartha, owner, and promoter of Cafe Coffee Day to shine the light on the mental health of managers and entrepreneurs of corporate India. Suddenly, the nation was abuzz with the trials and tribulations of business leaders and the pressures they go through. The one ubiquitous unanswered question that was left hanging was: why didn’t he seek help?

A 2016 study involving over 6,000 employees in multiple cities [in India], found that 80% of the respondents exhibited symptoms of anxiety while 55% had symptoms of depression. 

Though the challenges of a business leader are different from that of an employee, there is a similar silence that shrouds the anxieties and pressures of the working class – and they too shy away from speaking up about it. 

The World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety — among the more prominent mental health issues — cost the global economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity.

One of the biggest things an organization can do is to address it and reduce the social stigma around mental health. 

Doing so might only boost not just your employees’ mental well-being but also your business as WHO points out that for every $1 invested in treating common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. 

So, how can you do it?

  1. Engage in mental wellness awareness campaigns in order to dispel the social stigma around it. 
  2. Encourage an equal attitude of empathy for people suffering from any mental health issues like the usual sympathy displayed by employees for physical ailments and disabilities. If someone takes time off for mental wellness, let it not be seen as a lack of motivation. 
  3. Allow time off for mental wellness days. 
  4. Make a change in the employee health benefits policy to include access to counseling sessions, therapy, and more. 
  5. Invest in diagnostic tools that can help recognize employee burnouts at early stages. If someone in the system has a burnout, this is how we deal with it, address it, and help them get back and incorporate into the system again. 
  6. Conduct organization-wide wellness sessions with guidance kits and checklists by mental health experts so that you can empower your employees to take care of themselves too.

Work is where we spend most of our active time and it is usually the cause of mental stress. But with a change in perspective, mental health policies, and leadership initiatives, it can also be the solution.