Wednesday, February 21, 2018

WMHD2017_02World Mental Health Day is observed globally, on the 10th of October each year. The WHO set this year’s theme as ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’. In order to celebrate this event,, in association with the Dept. of Psychology of Maniben Nanavati Women’s College and Axis Bank, conducted an awareness event amongst Axis Bank employees.  This whole event was held at Axis Bank HO located at Wadia International Center, Worli, Mumbai, on 10th October, 2017. Axis Bank graciously hosted the whole event for all attendees.

A panel discussion was organised, on the Relevance of Mental Health Management at the Modern Work Place’. The panel included prominent personalities associated with the industry, such as Dr. Avinash DeSousa (Consultant Psychiatrist & Founder DeSousa Foundation), Mr. Suresh Mehra(VP, HR Dept., Axis Bank), Dr. Cicilia  Therappo_Small

Chettiar(Head of Dept of Psychology, MNW College), Ms. Ishita Sharma (Actress, M.A. Psychology), and’s very own co-founder- Mr. Sanjay Sarkar. 

The discussion was kicked off with moderator, Rachana Awatramani’s introduction. She began with a short case-story from Therappo about Mr.Gupta (name changed). He too, like many others was battling a number of challenges in life, daily. He was advised by someone to seek professional help for his mental health. His first thoughts were however, “am I mad? Why should I go to a psychiatrist or psychologist?

What will people think about me?” He too wondered a question that often crosses people’s minds – what if someone sees me, or judges me? So after googling the prevalence of similar issues, he discovered research suggesting that nearly 42.5% of individual suffer from a mental healthissue. Even after reading these numbers, he felt hesitant to physically visit a clinic. This is what led him on a search for an online option, culminating in his finding of On visiting this website, he felt inclined to opt for help because it allowed him the privacy and comfort of his own home or cabin. He felt reassured that there would be no biases, and that for an affordable fee, he could avail of a face-to-face session on video. He did not even have to worry about the company needing to be involved, so his confidentiality was maintained as well!

Based on this matter, the session was interactive, and touched upon important aspects of mental health and healthcare. It began with a discussion on what aspects of a corporate lifestyle affect one’s mental well-being. Whether there are practices that are encouraged- such as overtime, long work hours, having a lot on your plate WMHD2017_04etc, that may indirectly affect one’s mental well-being. Perhaps even the work environment is such that it glorifies stress. Or a corporate lifestyle that sets aside only a couple of days to unwind. The discussion here looked at whether all these factors in the workplace are a cause for failing mental health. 

The notion was directed to Mr. Suresh Mehra, who suggested that as we are social creatures, one cannot isolate the workplace as the lone cause for poor mental health. There may be other factors, or a combination of work and personal triggers, that contribute to one’s mental state. As for one’s work practices or lifestyle, Mr. Mehra commented saying that it is essential to be able to maintain a work-life balance. If it can be struck right from a young age, then it can be beneficial in the long run. He mentioned having even seen cases where people focus solely on their work, and miss out on striking a balance on a regular basis. “It is not about the workplace being healthy or unhealthy, but about me as an individual and how I balance this”.

When the question was thrown open to the audience, a couple of employees too shared a similar sentiment. One employee mentioned that having worked for nearly 14 years, finding that balance between different elements of one’s life is important, while developing the ability is what can make the workplace “wonderful”. A second employee presented a slightly altered view, stating that while one does have a responsibility to try and gain a balance, there may be situations that fall beyond one’s control. 

Mr. Sanjay Sarkar, as a co-founder of the online counselling platform – Therappo spoke about the current age of digitalisation and its role in encouraging individuals to seek out professional help. He commented on the importance and benefits of a digital solution which addresses the existing hesitation to go see a counsellor. His explanation was an anecdote on how, in any physician’s waiting room, all the chairs are always occupied. However, in the psychology wing, he noticed that nobody waited on a chair. They merely remained in the vicinity, for instance, at the water cooler. The driving force behind this behaviour being the reluctance to be seen visiting a psychologist. “What if a neighbour sees them?” Thus privacy and space are important to an individual, but a professional may not be able to visit each individual’s house. This is precisely what led to Therappo’s creation of having a powerful & secure video-chat engine. 

Dr. Avinash added that the advantage of an online platform, in a digital age, is that this matter of convenience is resolved for both the professional and the individual with a platform like Therappo. Time and effort are saved. Any employee may be able to avail of the service even during a lunch break, or once they reach home! He presented a second advantage as well. Online services such as Therappo, increase access to mental health care. While urban citizens/employees may have a greater understanding of the need and access to mental health treatment, rural areas or faraway places can also benefit from digitalisation of treatment. 

Mr. Sarkar also cited cases from Therappo’s own experience where many NRIs residing in other countries still prefer to talk to an Indian counsellor rather than going to local in their place of residence due to cultural gap comfort. Many of such NRIs have used Therappo to do precisely that.