Staying at work or returning to work plays a large part of recovery for someone who has experienced a mental illness. Going to work, having a routine and staying productive helps the person have a sense of purpose, boosting their confidence and self-esteem. It also has the added benefit of supporting those around them be more aware of mental illness and create an inclusive environment.
Also read: When can a person with mental illness return to work?
That said, most organizations aren’t very inclusive towards people with mental illness. Several organizations support employees with mental illness on a case-by-case basis, and there are hardly any regulatory or industry policies that address the issue on a wider level. This makes it challenging for both the person with mental illness, and for the management of the organization. For the person with mental illness, this implies uncertainty about their job safety, and emotional wellbeing at work; for the management and human resources, the absence of a policy means that they have little or no systems in place to support this employee.
For a person with mental illness, going back to work may bring up some anxieties around the following issues:
What can organizations do to address these concerns and create more inclusion for people with mental illness?
We spoke to a group of people – which included survivors, HR personnel and mental health experts – and here are their suggestions on how organizations can have systems in place to create a supportive working environment for those with mental illness:
Bangalore-based counselor Maullika Sharma believes that all of this can be achieved if there is emphasis on the employee’s mental wellbeing in the company’s policies. “Managers and co-workers can then be trained to recognize signs of illness, behave in a non-judgmental manner, and go beyond the cut-and-dry mechanisms of delivery. This way there is visibility around mental health issues, and people don’t feel stigmatized. The co-workers and manager are also empowered with regard to dealing with any situation where a colleague may need support.”