Mental Health Awareness At Work

[The author of this article is Suma PN, Director – HR, Otis India]

There was a colleague of mine who was very energetic with an endearing smile, passionate about his work, who loved spending time with his beautiful newborn daughter. He was a hero in my team.  I seldom needed to double check the reports from him or that complicated contract before walking to my meetings, as I was so assured of our hero’s ability and passion to get it right.  Then it happened one day – he was mildly upset and silent. Before we could realize, one day turned into several days of irritation and mood disorders.  The person who was very cheerful and full of life, slowly turned into a withdrawn individual who felt the world is plotting against him. It slowly dawned on us and the family that he needs care and attention to overcome this mental health concern and it needs to be treated like any other physical health concern. 

job employee happy

Mental health is a state of emotional well -being, enabling an individual to do well physically and cope with the day-to-day stresses. Mental health is important at every stage of an individual’s life, right from childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Still, it is a topic attached with lot of fear and social stigma. The symptoms of mental health are so varied and can be unpredictable, one may not always see the behavior patterns easily. It is a huge relief that many famous personalities are coming forward and sharing their stories of anxiety disorders or mood disorders. Schools, colleges and companies across sectors are slowly becoming aware of the mental health challenges and supporting people through professional help. 

During this pandemic, continued isolation in quarantine, apprehensions, absence of real-life interactions with people, restriction of movement limiting one to the confines of one’s home  or room, the same food or the same scene day in and out, is all getting to  people and many are struggling with this new reality. Initially people enjoyed working from home and treated it as a perk. Some frequent business travelers who were happy for not having to take those early morning flights are beginning to view this reality differently now.  I am seeing the stress originating out of relationship challenges, unmet career aspirations or balancing work and caregiving needs leading to mild to moderate depression, making it difficult for people to cope. 

Awareness about mental health needs to be created through engaging discussions, and people sharing their life stories in the workplace or at home. The early signs and symptoms need to be recognized by the individual, manager, work colleagues, family or friends. In India, we are still very bonded with our family and there is always an uncle, or aunt we turn to. Recognizing this growing need, companies are supporting employees and their families with professional psychological counsellors and these counselling sessions are available over phone, chat, email or face to face counselling. In severe cases, people may need a psychiatrist’s intervention and medication.

During this challenging time, adopting mindful living will enhance the quality of day-to-day life. Mindful living will help connect with the present moment. Practicing yoga or any other physical form of exercise will help the blood circulation and improve focus and resilience. Follow what you can of the normal routine you had pre-COVID; from getting up at the same time each morning, maintaining normal sleep times, dressing up in office clothes before opening your laptop for the day. Consider a break from social media, choose your news instead of listening to endless coverage and worrying about things not in your control, socialize remotely – talk to that long lost friend of yours, play a game with the family or self, read that uncompleted book or start that hobby you always wanted to pursue. 

Mental health affects everyone, it is up to us to connect with our senses and being aware of the moment.  Life is beautiful and can be enjoyed only if the brain neuroplasticity is improved and that can be done only by you, for you.

 Stay Healthy, Stay Safe!

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