In countries like the United States, the law makes it illegal to discriminate against any employee with a mental health issue.
By Pooja Priyamvada
Depression, similar to all other physical ailments, requires supervision and medical attention. Those undergoing treatments have their ups and downs, but this in no way deters them from carrying out their professional responsibilities. You may be surprised to know that about 42.5% of employees in the private sector suffer from depression or anxiety disorder, according to the results of a study conducted by Assocham. Yet chances are that you’ve rarely heard of a sensitisation workshop being held in a company or people asking for breaks to deal with a mental illness.
According to the National Mental Health Survey of India (2015-16), nearly 15 per cent of Indian adults are in need of active interventions for one or more mental health issues. The survey said the middle-aged working populations and the urban metros are witnessing a growing burden of mental health problems.
In countries like the United States, the law makes it illegal to discriminate against any employee with a mental health issue. Further, India does not have any steadfast regulation dealing with the issue.
Employers have a legal obligation not to discriminate against mental health survivors and to put in place reasonable adjustments to help level the playing field for them in the workplace where possible. When employees can talk freely and honestly about dementia, and where employers are well-equipped and confident about dealing with the illness in their workplace.
In India, The Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 aimed at providing mental healthcare and services for people with mental illness. All related services like hospitalisation and treatment are covered under the Act, which also prohibits discrimination against people with mental health issues.
This could also be interpreted to allow employees to take time off to manage mental health. But Indian organisations are not fully equipped to deal with it.
Even now, depression and mental health are taboo subjects discussed in hushed tones at Indian workplaces. Support groups for mental health say that Indian corporates mostly are just ignorant about the seriousness of the issue; they also discriminate against those who are open about their mental health needs.
It’s time India Inc and the unorganised sector becomes inclusive of mental health employees and their needs.
(The author is an avid columnist and blogger on issues pertaining to mental health. She also writes about sexual health, gender issues & social media. Views expressed are personal.)