The World Health Organisation defines the term “mental health” as a state of wellbeing wherein individuals are able to realize their respective capabilities, are able to handle general stressful aspects of life, are able to work optimally, and are able to contribute to their community. Mental health can also be understood as the overall psychological and emotional well being and it directly affects our general functioning through life especially when you are a working professional. With progressive talks around diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we are ushering into a new era of working. Today, we acknowledge all sorts of intangible issues at a workplace. Mental Health issues being one of them.
Over the past year, around 80% of Indian workers have disclosed having mental health concerns. Seventy-eight percent of LGBTQ+ respondents said they have experienced at least two or more negative mental health symptoms. In recent times, the world may have plunged into an obvious web of uncertainty and is constantly struggling to find its way back since then. And, this is just the data of one of the marginalized groups. It should not come as a surprise to anyone if we say that almost everyone has struggled on some level because of unconscious biases threatening the diversity, equity and inclusion at the workplace.
So if mental health and its fluctuations vis-a-vis our situations are common to every one of us, then what are we not talking about? The answer to this is not as simple as you think.
Employees are surrounded by a number of social inequalities including but not limited to varying social backgrounds, economic backgrounds, race, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyles, etc. An individual’s mental health is a sum total of all of their unique experiences as well as their respective environments. This makes all of our struggles different and with diversity and inclusion initiatives we want to initiate the conversation around it.
You would be amazed to know that this is not the only “unequal” aspect when we talk about mental health. The story doesn’t end here!
Access to mental health facilities or mere awareness about them also varies widely in our world. We work in an unequal world where only the privileged lot has access to all facilities. Diverse employees do not have the luxury to even think about the concept of optimal mental health, let alone strive for it. Then, what’s our responsibility to ensure equality and diversity in the workplace?
Well, start the conversation first and see how it affects your workforce.
The general lack of investment in the mental health sector is the reason why there is a lack of resources and tons of stigma that stresses employees to work in a toxic space. In many cases, employers of sufferers shun their concerns as usual boredom/ sadness and do not deal with mental health like they ought to. Hence, in order to optimize the benefits of workplace diversity fully, you should equip it with the proper mental health forum and counseling help.
There is an urgent need to tackle such issues and spread awareness about mental health among all sectors of society. People from all walks of life and all sections of the society can face mental health issues in some form or the other. Including the awareness programs and mingling sessions can help you reap the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and raise awareness at the same time. It is the need of the hour that we normalize “asking for help” and that no one feels judged as weak because of it.
Adding mental health leave isn’t merely a way how to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. By giving that window of relaxation, you are giving your employees a breather. You can give them a way to recuperate and deal with all kinds of issues. Not only it signifies the modern way of working but also humanizes your present as an organization.
Mental Health Issues can surface in multitudes of forms. As an organization with the core values of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, you can’t make them feel excluded. Take a little more effort and include people who seem aloof and distracted. Trust me, while the colleague factor may not work, the friendly tea party would always work wonders.
A lot of biases and inequalities in the mental health sphere will not go away from the world any time soon. It is going to be a constant and gradual process that all of us are a part of. Acknowledge the need for good mental health practices as an eminent step towards diversity and inclusion at the workplace. Spread awareness about them among your near and dear ones especially those who work with you in confined spaces. Check up on the employees around you, sometimes a simple Hello with a warm smile could help make someone else’s day better. You are all in the same boat, so be kind to yourself and every person around you.