As Mental Health Awareness Month Ends, Here’s How/Why We Need To Take The Conversation On Mental Health Further — Springfields of Rejuvenation
As the month of May, which has been designated as the Mental Health Awareness Month draws to a close, it is time to reflect on the lessons learned, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic, and plan on how to take the issue of addressing mental health at the workplace forward. No doubt your social media feeds are full of stories describing either struggle with mental health issues or strategies to tackle them, or both. More so, this month, when almost everyone is “coming out” with their own accounts and adding to the conversation. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I can say that this reminds me of the #MeToo movement, which “triggered” an avalanche of responses from women worldwide.
Since I mentioned #MeToo, I must also say that to address mental health issues at the workplace, we must first tackle “learned helplessness”. This term describes a gamut of feelings and emotions wherein those with mental health issues are often discouraged, demoralized, and fearful to talk openly about their travails. Much like #MeToo, we need a more “open” and “inclusive” conversation about mental health issues at the workplace. Learned helplessness happens when the “cultures of silence” and the “environment of denial” due to societal taboos and cultural conditioning combined with peer pressure and the necessity to “confirm” prevent those with mental health issues to speak out or even ask for help.
Learned helplessness also happens because bosses, managers, and colleagues often dismiss those with mental health issues as being troublesome and difficult, and also direct them to take medical leave, if they are so stressed out. While this approach should be reined in, a careful perusal of “ground realities” in Indian Corporates would attest to the prevailing sense of “sweeping under the carpet” any talk of mental health issues at the workplace. Indeed, talking about mental health at the workplace, leave alone addressing it, seems to be anathema in most corporates in India Inc., as I can vouch for this in my career. The first step here is an honest acknowledgement of mental health issues and then taking the conversation forward.