Mental Health is probably the next big pandemic to affect India : Richa Singh

Mental Health is probably the next big pandemic to affect India : Richa Singh

Mental Health is probably the next big pandemic to affect India. The cultural stigma along with the issues of accessibility and affordability have made quality mental health care reachable to only a few sections of the society, says Richa Singh, Co-Founder and CEO of YourDOST.


Mental health in India is generally not given its due importance. It is only since the onslaught of the pandemic that people have been waking up to the idea of mental health and its importance. How would you say, this is being dealt with in the corporate sector as a whole?


Mental Health is probably the next big pandemic to affect India. The cultural stigma along with the issues of accessibility and affordability have made quality mental health care reachable to only a few sections of the society. However, with the increasing awareness coupled with pandemic surfacing the need for mental health, things are changing drastically. Elements like separation from loved ones, loss of freedom, the uncertainty of the advancing disease, lack of social support, and adjustment to situational transitions have led to dramatic effects on people’s mental wellbeing.


We observed that with the pandemic surfacing and remote working model, the need for intervention for emotional wellness was gradually gaining its importance, especially in the corporate set-up. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have partnered with over 200+ corporate firms to take care of employee emotional wellness. The effect of the pandemic was so adverse, that people were expressing their wellbeing needs in one way or the other.


Being one of the pioneers in online counseling, it was easy for us to cater to the increasing demand and provide a 360-degree solution for a sustainable cultural transformation of the organisations for these changing times.


The topic of Mental Health has become more relevant during the pandemic and YourDOST has been dealing with this important issue. What are the kinds of issues YourDOST has been facing and how have you reached out to help?


The pandemic did bring about overnight changes like remote working which came with its fair share of challenges. There were conversations about these issues which stood out the most amidst the pandemic:


Anxiety around the uncertainty related to health and finances - This was the top concern brought down by the pandemic. With news of mass lay-offs and salary cuts through various channels, there was an obvious increase in financial anxiety. Added to that, the rapid advancement of the transmission of the virus made it even worse making health anxiety inevitable. The unprecedented circumstances left people unprepared and helpless.


Fall in Work-life balance - Extended periods of work from home due to the pandemic made it difficult for employees to maintain their work-life balance. People experienced a complete disappearance of boundaries between personal life and professional life.


Relationship & Marital Adjustment Issues - A lack of work-life balance led to many individuals not giving enough time to devote to their significant others. This led to a strain on their relationships.


Managing Teams Remotely in Uncertain Times - Times have been particularly difficult for team managers. Getting the team to function smoothly when the teammates were falling sick was a major challenge. In addition, a significant number of employees were grieving because of ill health and losing their loved ones, especially during the second wave. Thus, managers found it difficult to empathetically lead a team while managing individual responsibilities as well.


Being an emotional wellness organisation, we focus on enhancing happiness, resilience and also impacting the overall culture of organisations, through our interventions at 3 levels -


1. Individual Level (Self-Care) - Through YourDOST’s website/app, individuals get 24x7 instant to professional guidance from psychologists and coaches, assessments tools to help them understand themselves better, and self-help modules and training to develop skills to take care of themselves, face adversities with greater resilience and also provide support to those around them.


2. Team Level (Peer-Support) - We conduct tailor-made training and programs for leaders of organisations, managers, employees, staff members, etc., to help create and execute a peer support framework, and a supportive and caring team culture.


3. Organisational Level (Workplace Culture) - We proactively work with organisations’ leadership through scientific analysis and data to help them understand and fill the gaps at an overall workplace level in order to build an empathetic and high-performing culture.


Keeping in mind the recent difficult times, we have conducted specialised programs like -layoff support, covid proactive calling, helpline for immediate help and so on. We organised various webinars and campaigns to empower corporates as well as college students with stress management and adjusting to the new normal, peer support during pandemic-to name a few.


What is the extent of the role that HR can and should play when it comes to the mental wellbeing of their employees?


This COVID-19 pandemic caught everyone unaware and ill-prepared. Something so drastic is bound to have a psychological impact on people and so it did. As per a study we conducted on the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in stress, anxiety, loneliness, and frustration. This impairment has affected a majority of Indians severely at an emotional level.


Emotional wellness is at the core of establishing an empathetic high performing culture in any organisation. Thus, in recent times, HRs should try facilitating a culture of supporting emotional wellness in the organisation. Some of the ways to do this include:


1. Making sure that employees feel comfortable at work- Employees spend most of their working towards the success of the organisation they belong to. Thus, it is absolutely necessary for them to feel comfortable to work with the team. HRs may function as a channel between the employees and their managers and if the employees are well taken care of, it becomes easier for the employers to understand the dynamics of the organisation.


2. Making employees aware about mental health concerns- Stigma and discrimination towards mental health is one of the major obstacles due to which a lot of employees suffer silently. Encouraging simple conversations around mental health can make things a lot easier. Conducting awareness or educative programs around mental health are even better.


3. Providing access to mental health care- Accessibility of professional mental health care is a major concern among people. Partnering with wellness forums is a great way to solve the issue of accessibility.


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