Bhairavi Prakash talks to us about the way employees dealing with depression can approach HR and management, what workplaces can do to help such employees and destigmatize mental health issues, and steps we all can take to improve our work-life balance.
ACCENTURE: How would one know if one is suffering from regular work-related stress and anxiety or clinical depression?
Bhairavi Prakash: Stress is a response to our inability to deal with something. If we feel that we’re not able to match the demands of a situation and the resources we have don’t meet up to those demands, that’s when we get a stress response. It could lead us to worrying, being sad, sleeping too little or too much, even eating too much or too little.
I don’t think it’s necessary for us to identify if it is worry, sadness or clinical depression. The minute we’re not feeling okay or behaving or thinking the way we normally do, we should be seeking help. We do not have to wait for it to become a clinical issue. It’s not up to us to diagnose, it should only be done by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.
A: What are the steps to be taken if one is dealing with depression, especially with respect to their workplace?
BP: Depression is clinical, it is a mental health condition. If you have a formal diagnosis of depression, then you can technically get all the legal rights that fall under India’s disability law. One of the signs of clinical depression is your inability to function in regular life, so your work might be extremely impacted, and you might not be able to be as productive as you used to be or as other people around you are.
Clinical depression differs from person to person. Some people might be unable to get out of their beds, while others might be able to function but at a drastically reduced rate, still others might have clinical depression but still perform at close to regular levels. The best course of what you should do at the workplace is to be decided by the mental health specialist treating you. He or she will create a plan that’s suitable for you.
A: What are the measures that workplaces could take to show support to employees suffering from depression (and other mental illnesses)? How can workplaces help destigmatize mental health-related illnesses?
BP: Workplaces need to build more awareness and have more conversations around mental health and mental illnesses and how these things tend to impact our productivity. A cultural shift in the workplace is required where managers and leaders are taught how to have more meaningful conversations with their employees regarding such issues.
They also need clear policies in place in terms of leave that could be taken and support that could be offered by the team to an employee going through depression or other mental health issues.
Many companies have employee assistance programs where the company pays for the employee's therapy. Sometimes, it even extends to the employee’s family. There could be three to five free sessions, and sometimes even more. However, most employees don’t use this benefit for fear of negative repercussions such as a poor performance appraisal, their professional responsibilities being curtailed by the management, or in the worst-case scenario, being terminated from the job. Hence, organizations have a lot of work to do in order to make it a safe place for employees to come forward and avail such benefits.
A: What are some of the measures one can take to minimize stress, anxiety, and depression in their lives and for better work-life balance?
BP: With the recent growth in work from home and virtual offices, many are finding it a challenge to give themselves some “me time” and maintain work-life balance. In terms of work-life balance, I think the priority should be on self-care. Taking just 10 minutes out a day to do these three things can help:
- Do something fun. It can be painting, singing, dancing, jumping around, just doing something one enjoys!
- Connect with yourself and express your emotions—through painting, writing, speaking or catching up with relatives or friends.
- Get inspired. You can get your inspiration from religion, spirituality, gardening, looking at nature, listening to TED talks or reading autobiographies.
So, make time to do things that you enjoy, things that help you energize yourself. In these tough times, balance has been completely skewed for a lot of people. So, starting to tip the scales back is important. Beyond balance, it’s about starting to connect with yourself and making time for yourself. Bringing back self-care is super important.