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The Influence Of Mental Illnesses On Work, Potential And Career Development

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The Influence Of Mental Illnesses On Work, Potential And Career Development

Richa Singh, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, YourDOST, 0

She is providing solutions to complex problems related to technology, and helping in creating a better emotional well-being for people.

According to the WHO, India has one of the largest populations affected by mental illnesses. In fact, if we talk about numbers, 10.6% of the Indian population is estimated to suffer from some form of mental disorder.

When we talk about the Indian corporate world, things get even more worrisome. Nearly 56% of Indian corporate employees get less than 6 hours of sleep in a day due to high-stress levels, according to a report by ASSOCHAM. In addition to this, nearly 42.5% of employees in the private sector are suffering from depression or general anxiety disorder. Clearly, mental health issues are plaguing our workers which in turn affects their overall functionality and productivity. But how bad are these effects?

A study by the WHO found that workers with depression reported an equivalent of 27 lost workdays per year - nine of them were sick leaves and another 18 reflecting lost productivity (presenteeism). Another research has found that employees with depression are more likely than others to lose their jobs or change jobs frequently. Many of these studies have concluded that the indirect costs of mental health disorders are very high, and they exceed companies' expenditure on benefits such as health insurance and expenses.

Mental health issues can also affect career prospects. People dealing with mental health problems find themselves in a cycle of long-term unemployment; are more likely to lose their job and less able to seek future employment.

Take the case of Yash Kapoor, a 33-year-old software developer who was employed with a Bangalore based MNC. He had been under tremendous stress for a long time. The impact on his life was all-consuming.

“I used to feel a constant strain in my forehead and I just wanted to get rid of it. I started having severe suicidal thoughts. I started to feel like that was the only way to stop the pain.”

He had experienced severe sleeping issues in the past years. He would constantly feel low and was eventually diagnosed with Depression. He was let go by his then-employer when they came to know of his diagnosis which further deteriorated his condition.

Coming to Shashank Shekhar, founder of Stoned Santa who had to quit his start-up after 3 years; the lockdown left him fighting many major changes.

“I had to talk to my team members and understand their challenges. Some team members decided to leave us around that time. I felt like I wasn’t ready to take on so much change in one go.”

That wasn’t all. They had some 70-80 orders already placed with them when the lockdown was announced. So, he had to personally speak with hundreds of people to make those orders happen. This is when he started experiencing anxiety. Just the thought of attending to or attempting a call would make him anxious.
“If I did get a phone call, I would wait for it to stop ringing, and then check who the caller was on Truecaller. But even if it were an urgent call, I wouldn’t return it.”

A recent survey conducted by YourDOST revealed that 22% of the respondents feel that they cannot speak about their mental health openly with their managers. Thus, it is important for company leaders and managers to rise up to the occasion and make sure that their team members are doing well emotionally, not just physically. Providing mental health day-offs, 24x7 counselling access for all levels and conducting regular employee wellness surveys are just some ways to let employees know that their team is there for them.

Regular exercise is another way to “vent out” the stress that is building up inside you


We can all - at our own individual levels - take steps to improve our mental health and build our resilience.

Think of yourself as a pressure cooker, the external environment is the flame. If the cooker is allowed to vent its steam, it works well. If it can’t vent, the pressure continues to build within the cooker until the lid blows off.

If you are under stress and try to keep it all in, it won’t be long before you reach your emotional breaking point. This is why psychologists and researchers agree on how important it is to talk about our feelings. Research also suggests that putting your feelings into words — a process called “affect labelling” — can help manage negative emotional experiences. This is how, over time, you can become less stressed over something that bothers you.

Regular exercise is another way to “vent out” the stress that is building up inside you. It releases endorphins in the brain which help relieve stress and boost your overall mood. Exercise can also treat mild to moderate depression. A study was done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.

Now, you can also increase the capacity of the pressure cooker which will help you in the long run. How? By practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness comes in many forms: meditation, self-affirmations, breathing techniques, and journaling, to name a few. These practices are helpful in shaping a more positive mindset. Mindfulness and meditation are excellent ways to destress and improve focus.

You don’t constantly have to be on a flame either. Try to take tiny breaks from time to time. A change of scene or pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute stretch in between work, a half-hour lunch break with your friends, or a weekend getaway. Don’t shy away from taking some time off for yourself. You deserve it.

Most importantly, remember to ask for help. None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go according to plan. If you feel distressed, be open to therapy. Your employer may even have an employee assistance program in place just for that. Make use of these services as they are confidential and can be accessed for free.

It is completely okay to break down sometimes but don’t let your ego get in the way of you getting better. We are all human after all. Humans are vulnerable and being vulnerable isn’t a sign of weakness. Reach out, seek help, because you are strong.

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