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Walking towards hope

R Sriram Srinivas, who has multiple disabilities—mental retardation and spastic diplegia—takes a breather during his yoga session at home. P Settu, his yoga therapist, who has been teaching Sriram two years now, says that Sriram used to be inattentive and restless, but now follows instructions well and has mellowed down significantly.  



Images and text by Naveen P M

Walking towards hope (2/9)

M Vanitha, Sriram's teacher, helps Sriram wear his dance apparel before the start of the 'World Differently Abled Day Cultural Programme' at Don Guanella Special School in Chennai. Due to Sriram's condition, simple tasks such as putting on clothes can become a chore and he often ends up needing some assistance. 


Walking towards hope (3/9)

Sriram rides his bicycle—fitted with a custom-made backrest—flanked by special education teacher, G V Arumugam. Arumugam has known Sriram for 15 years and was initially hired to teach him basic reading and writing skills. On Sriram's parents' request, he started to assist Sriram in walking and then taught him how to ride a bicycle so he could improve his muscle tone. 

Read Sriram's story here


Walking towards hope (4/9)

R Devi helps Sriram read a clock at Sai Sri Ram Training Centre. Sriram has difficulty reading and writing even basic words, and has a hard time grasping universal concepts such as time, date, and money. Devi is Sriram's favorite teacher. Sai Sri Ram Training Centre has eight students with special needs, two teachers, and a domestic help. The school functions from 10 am to 3 pm and keeps the students busy with a plethora of activities such as coloring, computer games, and yoga.


Walking towards hope (5/9)

M R Karthik, physical trainer, subjects Sriram to one of the many "balancing exercises" to improve his balance and correct his "scissor gait". Karthik has been training Sriram for the last two years. "In the beginning, Sriram could hardly stand for a minute on his own and displayed a lot of traits commonly seen in persons with Intellectual Disability (ID), such as lack of eye contact, droning, drooling...," says Karthik.

Read Sriram's story here


Walking towards hope (6/9)

Sriram and his classmates from Sai Sri Ram Training Centre perform to a medley of Bollywood songs at the 'World Differently Abled Day Cultural Programme' held in Don Guanella Special School, Chennai. P Dharani Kumar, a professional choreographer, composed the dance moves for this performance. He visits the school every weekend to teach dance to these students. "Sriram usually has trouble recollecting and executing my dance moves but he stepped his game up through some spontaneous moves," he said. 

Read Sriram's story here

Walking towards hope (7/9)

Sriram is ecstatic after receiving a silver medal for the Standing Long Jump event. His driver, D Alvin (right), and Sriram's mother, R Vanitha, gather around to congratulate him, at the Special Olympics Sports Meet held on YMCA Grounds, Chennai. Sriram shares a special bond with Alvin and the two can often be seen engaging in healthy banter. 


Walking towards hope (8/9)

Sriram does a lap of backstroke at The League Club, Chennai. His parents introduced him to swimming at the age of seven after a doctor suggested hydropathy as treatment. Sriram has been training under U Sathish Kumar, swim coach for children with special needs, for one year now. Sriram won four gold medals in as many events at two swim meets for para-athletes held last year in Tamil Nadu.


Walking towards hope (9/9)

Dr J Paul Devasagayam, Area Director, Special Olympics Bharat, Tamil Nadu, reviews Sriram Srinivas's progress with his mother, R Vanitha, during one of their monthly meetings at his 100-square-foot office in Purasawalkam, Chennai.


Workplace mental health: Is it a good idea to talk to my manager about my stress?

If you are wondering whether to talk about your mental health issues at work, this one is for you
Priyanka M

The pressure to meet deadlines, the stress of travelling to the workplace, workload and office environment are some the stressors that many employees face on a daily basis. These can significantly impact a person's mental wellbeing. 

Many people choose not to talk to their colleagues about their emotional state at work because they fear being judged, ridiculed, seen as weak, and because of the worry that this information will be shared with others. On the other hand, not addressing your emotional distress may affect your professional life and result in slowed work productivity, poor decision making and comprehension. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed and think you are unable to perform to your potential, you may want to talk to someone about it. Here are some common queries answered.

I don't need any help. I can manage on my own, can't I?

Everyone needs help at some point in their lives. If a person has bodyache or a light fever, they can manage on their own with rest and diet. If te problem persists or worsens, they will need treatment and medication. It is the same with mental health. You can make lifestyle adjustments for self-care and to manage the situation better. But if the problem persists, reaching out can help you get support in dealing with your situation.

How can talking about mental health at work help me? I can get help outside...

We spend a lot of our time at work, and the work environment impacts our mental health. If you have a supportive manager, you may be able to receive practical as well as emotional support at work. If you need specific types of support (e.g., flexibility in hours, days off, or a reevaluation of your tasks to allow for a better work-life balance), it may be easier for your manager to understand your requests once they have the context. That said, it is important to go with your sense of whether there is space for such a conversation at your workplace.

What are my options to reach out for help?

At work, you can reach out to your colleagues, and if you have someone whom you have a good rapport with, try talking to them. Alternatively, you can talk to your manager. If you believe your colleague or manager may not be able to help you, talk to your HR personnel. Some organisations have EAP or employee assistance programs which include some stress management resources along with trained counselors to assist you. 

But is it really okay to talk about my distress with my manager?

It depends on the manager and your rapport with them – whether they are empathetic, whether you trust that they possess skills to understand your emotional distress, whether the manager is able to listen and empathize with your issue, how they may respond to such situations (or have responded to similar situations in the past), and whether you trust them to handle this information with care. Often, managers are shaped in their responses by organizational policies and culture. So if the organizational culture promotes and accepts mental health issues and requires the managers to do the same, then the manager will be required to be responsive and supportive.

What if my workplace is not resourceful enough to help me?

Often workplaces do not create space for employees to discuss their emotional distress; and employees assume that speaking about distress leads them to be seen as weak and unfit. Ideally, there should be several avenues for the employees to talk about their stresses and it is the responsibility of the organization to provide spaces for such conversations to occur. If you believe that it is insufficient for tackling your stresses, seek professional help outside of workplace. Meanwhile, here are some things organizations can do for their employees:

  • Taking up peer level initiatives, along with constant communication with employees about the importance of mental health issues

  • Communicating with the employees about the importance of mental health and wellbeing, through various organisational intiatives

  • Opening up of multiple avenues for seeking help for employees

This content is created with inputs from Maullika Sharma, clinical head at Workplace Options, Bangalore and Tanuja Babre, program associate at iCall psychosocial helpline, Mumbai.

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