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BT MindRush: Indian businesses need to give importance to mental health, says Neerja Birla

Mental health in India is a huge stigma. People openly share with their friends and colleagues if they suffer from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, but they refrain from sharing that they are feeling symptoms of depression or anxiety

twitter-logo Ajita Shashidhar        Last Updated: December 13, 2019  | 20:20 IST
Indian businesses need to give importance to mental health, says Neerja Birla
Over 42.5 per cent of employees in the private sector suffer from forms of mental illness such as depression and anxiety, mental health will cost $16 trillion to the global economy by 2030

Mental health in India is a huge stigma. People openly share with their friends and colleagues if they suffer from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, but they refrain from sharing that they are feeling symptoms of depression or anxiety. Addressing the taboo, Neerja Birla, Founder & Chairperson, Mpower emphasised the importance of discussing mental health issues at the workplace.

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"Don't hesitate to talk about mental health. If you are seeing symptoms of depression, don't hesitate to talk about it," said Neerja Birla, Founder & Chairperson, Mpower, at the seventh edition of Business Today Mindrush on Friday. According to her, over 42.5 per cent of employees in the private sector suffer from forms of mental illness such as depression and anxiety. "Mental health will cost $16 trillion to the global economy by 2030. That's the magnitude of the problem of mental health. However, bulk of Indian companies don't recognise the gravity of the situation."

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"Most people don't want to utter the word 'mental', they want to believe that it can happen to others but not to them," says Birla. Ironically, corporates also are in a denial mood. "They may have the perfect HR policies, but most of them don't consider mental health important."

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Birla urged corporate India to have a framework which promotes acceptance of mental health. "They need to give as much importance to mental health assessments as they do to other health assessments. Companies need to allocate budgets for mental health. If you take care of mental health of your employees, you will automatically see an increase in their  productivity and an improvement in their attitudes."

If a company's most talented employees begin to underperform for a prolonged time, if they are unable to cope with their daily deadlines or have suddenly turned quiet or overtly aggressive, then it's a red flag and employees' mental well-being has to be at once looked into.

Birla launched Mpower four years ago. Though India Inc's acceptance of mental well-being of employees is much higher now, she says it's just tip of the iceberg.

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