It's Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13-19) and as the subject surrounding mental health issues become more widely discussed, it's heartening to see people becoming more open about sharing their stories and help in destigmatizing the presumptions of challenges that mental health entails. Often, at the workplace, mental health is not given due importance. Any issues relating to the mind are often brushed under the carpet and issues of physical health are given precedence. We are a strong believer to "bring your whole self to work". When your body, mind, and soul are in harmony with what you do for a living, it is easier to lead a satisfying, fruitful, and productive personal and professional life. To thrive, one must look at holistic wellbeing.
Being in the advocacy of Inclusion & Diversity, we come across many incidences of workplace conflicts. Our programs try to also work on mitigating such conflicts. Being an outsider and external consultant has its benefits and many employees tend to be more open to us than with their colleagues and leadership in the fear of being reprimanded. The toxic culture in some organizations is like "bear it with a grin and just keep quiet or else be taken to task". Many employees we consult as part of diversity training find the workplace suffocating every centrist perspective or viewpoint.
This with dictatorial editing and undercover toxicity stifles rightful expression and may affect employees' mental health in the long-term with absenteeism, anxiety and depression, and even physical conditions which are caused or amplified by workplace stress. In our experience, the suppression of expression leads to many conflicting situations. Especially, expressing feelings about microaggressions at the workplace that minority groups might be subjected to often leading to becoming off-balance and feeling flipped upside down.
We are deliberately focusing on work-related mental health issues because at the workplace there may be a lack of a support system unlike at home.Our editor Amit faced such microaggressions by his previous employer from some key members of the management. A significant part of his career was dedicated to this company that failed to treat him with respect and dignity despite his contributions. The company failed to give the rightful credit of the business won by Amit during his decade of tenure with this organization. This led him almost to a breaking point psychologically and financially. Amit then made a deliberate attempt to move out of his non-action zone often rightfully the fear zone (of losing the job). The company he worked with was not keen on taking responsibility for their employees. There was a lot of chatter about being inclusive, employee-centric, and the usual blah blah but zero credibility in addressing challenges often wilfully thrust by the management upon unsuspecting and loyal employees and when employees face this situation, the best thing is to exit, which is what Amit did. And he vowed to use his experience in the trenches to help people stuck in similar situations.
Not expressing is the "bad" that must be broken. And the onus on it lies on us as much as it does on organizations. Most importantly, people need to normalize these important conversations on mental health and take full ownership of their mental wellness.