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A study by Assocham showed that nearly 43 per cent of employees in the private sector in India suffer from mental health issues at work. Also, a WHO report in 2017 found out that 18 per cent of global depression cases originate from India.
While mental health issues in the workplace are a reality for most companies, the stigma associated with mental health problems often prevents people from seeking help. Stigma is the result of negative perceptions and stereotypes and reflects a lack of understanding about mental health issues. External stigma often involves negative opinions, judgements, comments, and assumptions made by others; internal stigma can take place when the person affected by mental illness internalises these negative messages.
Why Stigma a Major Problem?
Though most mental health problems are common and treatable, the stigma or negative stereotypes associated with mental illness often forces employees to not talk about the issue. Even in workplaces that are quite progressive, several employees keep their mental health issues under wraps fearing that being open to talk about them will hurt their reputation, compromise work relationships, or even put their job at risk.
Employees with untreated mental health issues tend to have more serious and costly health issues in general. For instance, their risk of heart attacks and strokes is twice as high, and people with mental health issues are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes. This all adds up to missed work days and a loss in productivity that can significantly affect the performance of organisations.
The stigma or negative stereotypes associated with mental illness often forces employees to not talk about the issue.Photo by Flickr
How Organisations can Remove Stigma from their Workplaces?
Helping to improve mental health and well-being at work is not only beneficial to employees but also the company and society at large. Here are some ways organisations can remove the stigma surrounding mental health:
1. Awareness and Open Discussions
The more people are aware of mental health issues and the challenges faced by people with mental health problems, the less powerful stigma becomes. Through education on mental health, companies can reduce stigma, discrimination, negative stereotypes, and fear in the workplace. Also, it is essential to create safe spaces for employees to talk about their own challenges without the fear of being "judged". Employees shouldn't fear that they will be excluded if they open up in this way. Leaders can set the tone for this by sharing their own experiences.
2. More Attention towards Language
It is common practice across different organisations to address people with mental health disorders with words like "Downy", "Scary", "Schizo". This can contribute significantly towards stigmatising mental health conditions. It is time to put an end to such practice and adopt practices that reduce prejudice, discrimination, and stigma against people suffering from mental health issues.
3. Increasing Access to Resources and Programs
Many organisations use employee assistance programmes (EAP) to support workplace mental health. Some employees may be reluctant to use this resource due to shame and lack of understanding, but they can go a long way in creating a workplace that values every individual equally and creates no discrimination or stigma. Companies can also provide direct access to mental health resources, apps, and even mental health professionals that can make employees feel supported and cared for.
4. Mental Health Training
It is crucial for every company to promote a culture that values every employee and understands that it's normal to suffer from mental health conditions. Mental health training for employees can help them recognise the signs of someone who may be struggling with a mental health challenge and connect them to support resources. Through plays and other activities, they can offer guidance on how to listen non-judgmentally, offer reassurance, and assess the risk of suicide or self-harm.
Making mental health stigma a thing of the past is the need of the hour for organisations. The common human connection that every person shares with another person is more important than what separates us. Everyone struggles with doubt and anxiety. However, empathy is vital to see that common ground and build on it to create opportunity and hope for all. (IANS/JB)
(Prakriti Poddar, Director, Poddar Wellness Ltd.)
Keywords: Health, Workplace, Mental Health.
Depression remained common during the pandemic and worsened for some patients leading to increased visits to the emergency department for the treatment of anxiety and chest pain, finds a new study. The study found that nearly 40 per cent of patients studied reported new or continuing symptoms of depression during the first year of the pandemic in the US. "These findings are significant. In looking at the first year of the pandemic, we are already seeing the mental health effects on our patients," said researcher Heidi T. May from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute. "We know that it is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease; and if people are becoming more depressed because of the pandemic, in a few years, we could see a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease," May added.
For the study, the team examined 4,633 patients who completed a depression screening that is a standard part of primary care, before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. "Before" was between March 1, 2019, to February 29, 2020, and "during" was between March 1, 2020, and April 20, 2021. Patients were separated into two groups -- those with no depression/no longer depressed, and those who remained depressed/became depressed.
Using electronic health records, patients were then assessed for follow-up emergency department visits for anxiety and chest pain, said the study, presented at the American Heart Association's virtual 2021 Scientific Session. Researchers found that among depressed patients, depression screening scores were higher during the pandemic than before it. Depression was also associated with increased emergency department visits for anxiety. They found that the odds of visiting an emergency room for anxiety was 2.8 greater for people with depression than those without, and 1.8 greater for anxiety with chest pains compared to non-depressed patients.(IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: depression, hospital, chest pain, pandemic, heart, healthcare
Heartfulness meditation, a simple heart-based meditation practice aimed at attaining a balanced state of mind, helps in reducing stress and improving the quality of sleep, revealed a study. The mixed-method study was conducted by US researchers during the Covid-19 pandemic and was published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, said Heartfulness Institute, which has its global headquarters in Hyderabad.
Heartfulness meditation was associated with significant reduction in perceived stress and improvement in the quality of sleep of participants who completed the online-based meditation programme. Kamlesh Patel, also known as Daaji, the guide of Heartfulness meditation, underlines the need to immediately address stress in one's life. "The simple focus of life is to become better and better each day. To achieve this we need to be in a state of complete awareness about our self and raise our consciousness in tune with our true nature. Stress is the modern day ill created by our inability to focus on things that matter. Stress and its negative impact on our overall wellbeing has slowly but steadily taken control of every individual," he said.
"While we know Covid-19 as the pandemic, the build-up of stress and its ill impacts is the bigger pandemic and equally a bigger health crisis. Stress needs our urgent attention as well and in consistent practice of meditation we have the most effective vaccination to ward off stress and is the visa for living your life in joy," he added. The study was conducted by Dr Kunal Desai, Dr Priti Parikh and Dr Alpa Desai of the Department of Internal Medicine, Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright University, Ohio, and Prof Dr Pratibha Gupta, Food Nutrition and Health Agricultural Research Development Programme, Central State University, Ohio.
Heartfulness meditation, a simple heart-based meditation practice aimed at attaining a balanced state of mind, helps in reducing stress and improving the quality of sleep. | Photo by Nikolay Dimitrov on Unsplash
Stress and lack of quality sleep are considered serious public health challenges despite modern lifestyles, comforts, and technological advances. The Covid-19 pandemic has genuinely brought attention to this pre-existing stress problem by making it significantly worse. The study aimed to investigate whether using a virtual heart-based meditation program is associated with improved stress levels and quality of sleep. The researchers enrolled 63 participants to receive an eight-week virtually conducted Heartfulness meditation program. Of these, 36 (57 per cent) completed the entire eight weeks of the Heartfulness meditation programme.
The participants were recommended to attend a minimum of two out of a total of eight virtual trainer-guided group Heartfulness relaxation and meditation sessions each week. These sessions, conducted by one of the authors and a Heartfulness trainer (KD), included 5-7 min of relaxation followed by 20 min of meditation. They were also provided instructions on using the phone application called 'HeartsApp' on their phones. They could connect as an anonymous seeker with a Heartfulness trainer through the application and meditate without any audiovisual interaction. They were also suggested self-practices to the best of their abilities.
"Our study showed that following Heartfulness meditation practice, PSS and PSQI improved significantly in the participants from different parts of the United States. About 31 per cent were healthcare professionals, and the entire programme was conducted virtually. Based on these observations, we propose that meditation programmes offered via virtual platforms can offer a convenient, helpful, and easily accessible tool to a large community at once to help improve the psychological wellbeing of individuals," said Dr Kunal Desai, who led the study.
Stress and lack of quality sleep are considered serious public health challenges despite modern lifestyles, comforts, and technological advances. | Photo by Emily Underworld on Unsplash
"The results of qualitative analysis in our study bring a unique perspective to this aspect as we were able to show that the participants' subjective experiences strongly supported the results of the survey findings. Thus, these results enhance our understanding of how Heartfulness meditation practice helps reduce stress and improve the quality of sleep. Our qualitative analysis suggests these effects could be because a simple heart-based meditation brought a 'calming effect' in our participants, resulting in an 'inner peace'. Such an effect also resulted in inner changes in our participants, including positive thinking, accepting and empathic attitude, and an increase in awareness of one's own emotions and the needs of others." This study adds to the existing literature supporting the benefits of Heartfulness practice, as reported by some previous studies showing the benefit of Heartfulness relaxation and meditation to reduce stress, burnout, loneliness, and improve the quality of sleep. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Mental health, stress, meditation, study, heartfulness, help, reducing stress
People's everyday lifestyle has become severely stress-inducing with all the societal pressure, the race to have a stable life, and as the constant feeling of being unaccomplished looms in their minds, the demand for mental healthcare has been increasing more than it ever was. However, it remains inaccessible to most, there are major barriers that hinder people from receiving effective treatment.
It takes a long wait for people to finally seek therapy and find a therapist who can understand the individual's lived experiences especially when they identify as LGBTQ+, disabled, etc. There are still mountains of additional hurdles to go to therapy and receive treatment.
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At the level of the individual level, some of the barriers that confine people to stay in the state of mental stress include-
Most therapists and professional mental health care specialists charge a handsome fee for each session and sometimes per hour. Even if an individual has medical insurance that covers behavioral and mental healthcare, the cost for the treatment is still too high which makes it off-limits for treatment. Lack of financial resources can lead to inconsistent or inadequate treatment. Most independent therapists do not even accept insurance. It makes people skeptical if the process is even worth the investment, holding them back from getting professional health.
The social stigma associated with mental illnesses often prevents people from seeking mental healthcare. It brings shame and embarrassment to people struggling with mental illnesses. People suffering from mental health issues are often told, "You could control your mental illness…if you only tried," demotivating them from getting into therapy and even pushing them to hide their struggles.
They are faced with discrimination social and professional. The fear that family and friends will avoid them or treat them negatively, once they know about their mental illness further worsens their condition and forces them to keep their mental health to themselves.
Lack of Awareness:
Many people in society do not consider mental illnesses as "real illnesses" as they are not physically visible. They do not understand the breadth and the range of mental illnesses and disorders. Symptoms of mental illnesses are subtle and are dismissed as minor "personality issues". Clinical anxiety is dismissed as "excessive worrying" and depression is looked upon as "laziness". Thus, serious mental health condition stays unseen until people themselves share their thoughts and feelings.
Depression is often dismissed as "laziness"Unsplash
Lack of Mental Health Professionals:
There is a shortage of mental health professionals for people to go to. With only limited options from in the market, it is a challenge to find a therapist who can both understand the challenges unique to your culture and simultaneously treat your specific mental health concerns. Even if mental health professionals are available in urban areas there are no mental healthcare providers in the rural area at all.
ALSO READ:The Silent Epidemic; Mental Health
India still has a long way to go before it has adequate mental health facilities all over the country. Eradicating all the barriers and then walking into therapy is a hefty challenge itself. But if you are suffering from mental illness, don't be afraid to speak out and please know that you are not alone! Understanding what prevents mental healthcare access opens the door to improving that access with better conditions. Despite the initial steps to seeking mental healthcare can be challenging the investment can result in long-term benefits.
Keywords: Mental illnesses, mental healthcare, therapy, therapist, social stigma, mental disorders