Mental health is a topic that is either largely ignored or kept hidden and not discussed at workplaces. Mental illness is often accompanied by immense stigma, making it difficult for people to talk about it without fear or hesitation. At the workplace, this stigma can cause employees with mental illness to hold back information and not receive the empathy and support that they deserve.
Including mental health in diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs
Diversity and inclusion programs at workplaces are generally seen as a way to provide equal opportunities to three groups of people – women, LGBTQIAP+, and people with disabilities (PWD). While many workplaces account for diversity and inclusion through these three groups, inclusion for people with mental health issues is rarely addressed.
While the idea seems straightforward, workplaces face a number of barriers in implementing this. Companies often grapple with questions such as:
Should they be hired?
Will they actually do the work assigned to them?
Will it reflect on their productivity?
Will it be a loss to the company?
Would they disturb the atmosphere of the organization?
Will the company end up spending more on the person?
The first step in being inclusive towards mental health means making an effort to sensitize, educate and encourage the leadership and employees at all levels. This helps in fostering a supportive and open environment for people with a mental illness.
Best practices for including mental health at the workplace
We asked a number of HR personnel what they thought were the best practices to ensure mental health is part of their D&I initiatives. Here are a few responses:
Encourage empathy and an attitude of openness
Create downtime areas for employees to take breaks
Help create a routine; allow for flexible work hours
Promote wellbeing via regular workshops, exercise and meditation
Conduct workshops to help build resilience
Create policies that are mental health friendly
Employ people from all walks of life
Provide an employee assistance program and access to a counselor/therapist/helpline
Insurance coverage to include mental illness
Geared with these best practices, workplaces can work towards ensuring inclusivity for employees with mental illness.
This article has been compiled with inputs from Maullika Sharma, director at Workplace Options, Lynette Nazareth, program director, CGP India, and Bharath Moro, manager, Byond Travel. Additional insights were shared by managers, D&I and HR personnel whose names have been withheld by request.
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