By my reckoning, Corporates, define relationships and professionalism as two different entities. Very often they draft situations and people with sentences saying, “we are not emotional beings we are Professional beings”, quantifying the magnitude of evasiveness around Mental Health. Although Corporates have been taking exemplary steps against discrimination on grounds of Race, Sexuality, Gender, Age Etc. There is still a need to educate professionals about the role of mental health wellness and relationships when it comes to work.
Since, the world is making a shift from the idea of work-life balance towards work-life integration, the very need to integrate and accept the term “Mental Health” is important, yet still far away from reality.
In my almost three years of career, I have seldom seen an organization or any senior management making an effort to know what’s going on with an employee at a certain point of time, by having a conversation. Assessments followed by guilt for reduced productivity, or lack of focus, are more the norm.
In my opinion, as a millennial newbie, hiring the whole individual, encouraging relationships, supporting each employee, would redefine the term Professionalism, giving it a whole new meaning.
In my quest to know more about depression in millennials, I approached Ms Reeti Rekhi, MS (USA), a Counsellor for 22 years (more about her below the post) to answer my questions. I needed to get these addressed by an expert to add to what I call –A path to unravel Corporates and their relationship with employees developing or dealing with mental illness.
Q: Could you please approximate how many people you counsel is from Corporates?
Rekhi: Around 90 percent of people between the ages of 25-35 that approach me are from Corporates. Most of them report struggling with depression for a long time, and seek help due to feelings of hopelessness.
Q: So, what is it about Mental Health which causes Stigma?
Rekhi: Well, to a large extent people look at Mental Health as a private matter. It is personal, and is shared with caution. There is a fear of being judged, and the timing always seems wrong to people. Most folks are focussed on being independent, living up to familial expectations, developing their career, and fear losing out on any approaching opportunity due to mental health issues. My job is to tell them that by getting help for depression they are being responsible and maintaining their independence.
.Q: So, what can you tell us about Depression?
Rekhi: People need to be aware of some symptoms which can indicate Depression. The symptoms can be sadness, tearfulness, lack of interest or enthusiasm, unwillingness to go to work, or to take part in simple life activities, lack of concentration or low energy etc. When these symptoms persist for 2 weeks or more, a person should see a Psychiatrist or therapist for diagnosis.
Q: How can an Organisation Help its employees to deal with it?
Rekhi: I would say, if an organization is invested in its employees, they need to develop an understanding of Depression. They need to have qualified help available inside or within easy reach. Ensuring that the health care provider covers the cost of treatment would help immensely. Also, cultivating a good work culture and emphasizing building supportive relationships. Meeting an employee privately and offering support during treatment would help. And always, keep such information confidential. Work is an important part of therapy, it offers meaning, connection and livelihood. Therapists like me, work to keep therapy brief, and have people return to work or stay engaged in work, as far as possible.
Q: Any comments on Managing Stress and Productivity?
Rekhi: Moderate levels of Stress can be a good workout, provided the work is enjoyed. A Good work culture also makes the work enjoyable, and keeps the stress levels manageable.
Q: You talked about Work Culture, How much of a role does the environment plays in the overall well-being of an Individual?
Rekhi: A good environment makes the workplace a keeper. Employees appreciate a workplace where they are connected, and find the work meaningful.
Q: Would you recommend a special training for Higher Management Officials for Identifying and Dealing with Depression or other Psychological Symptoms?
Rekhi: It would be very helpful to have an awareness program, where people can learn to identify symptoms of Depression and what is most important, is what you do after it gets identified. Treating employees with respect and empathy goes a long way.
Q: What message would you like to give to coworkers or colleagues of a person suffering from Depression?
Rekhi: Suspend judgement, be supportive. Depression is a part and parcel of wellness, much like taking care of your teeth or eyes. Everyone deals with it, at some point or the other.
Q: A message for the individuals hesitant to seek help?
Rekhi: Seeking help is a sign of responsibility, not a sign of weakness. If you think, everything with you is not alright, share it the people you trust; and see a good therapist. And remember your job is not to fix everything.
As, I concluded the discussion over a cup of coffee and cupcakes, my thoughts were given a direction by Ms. Reeti Rekhi . A whip of expert validation, giving confidence to walk the path which I wanted to walk upon, without fear.
About the Counsellor: Ms. Reeti Rekhi has a Master’s degree in Counselling from Mississippi State University. She has worked in the field for over 22 years, including her experience at Superior Court Of California as a CONREP Mental Health Specialist. Ms. Rekhi has been working in the area of Community Counselling for Individuals and Families post her return to India in 2007.