Companies should focus on emotional well-being of employees and enable them to take time out to seek help for mental health issues
Moumita Mazumdar, a 30-year old marketing professional was diagnosed with clinical depression almost three years ago. With active medical intervention and regular therapy sessions, her condition has been stable. However, there are still some days that she finds it impossible to even get up from bed. But, she is unable to take sick leave for her mental health because her employer requires a medical certificate for every leave taken.
The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 looks at providing mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness. All related services like hospitalisation and treatment are covered under the Act, which also prohibits discrimination against people with mental health issues.
This could also be interpreted to allow employees to take time off to manage mental health. But Indian organisations are not fully equipped to deal with it.
Depression and mental health are taboo subjects discussed in hushed tones at Indian workplaces. Support groups for mental health say that India Inc is not just ignorant about the seriousness of the issue, they also discriminate against those who are open about their needs.
A Mumbai-based mental health firm’s senior director recounts an incident where an employee was taken off a project, because he took sick leaves quoting ‘depression’ as the reason. “The company decided that he was incapable of making sound decisions. As per law, this could be termed as a crime,” the person quoted above added.
Depression, similar to all other physical ailments, requires supervision and medical attention. Those undergoing treatment have their ups and downs, but this is no way deters them from carrying out their professional responsibilities.
According to the National Mental Health Survey of India (2015-16), nearly 15 percent of Indian adults are in need of active interventions for one or more mental health issues. The survey said the middle-aged working populations are most and that urban metros are witnessing a growing burden of mental health problems.
In countries like the United States, law makes it illegal to discriminate against any employee with a mental health issue. India does not have any steadfast regulation dealing with the issue.At a time when companies are recognising the need to reduce workplace stress and improve emotional well-being of workers, having a formal policy for mental health would be a step in the right direction. Enabling employees to take time off to deal with anxiety/depression would help them improve their emotional capabilities and contribute in an effective manner to the workplace requirements.