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Break the stigma: Time to make mental health part of sick leaves

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Employees are often forced to give excuses for taking time off for mental health. It is crucial that organizations make mental health leave a standard HR practice.

Polls are popular on social media lately . One such asked users about the justifications that they gave at workplaces to hunt day off for psychological state . 

The answers range from headaches, indigestion , viral fever to even funerals of grandparents (who are dead).One thing is obvious . Employees are hesitant about admitting that they needed leaves for emotional health. And what option do they really have?

Sick leaves are restricted to about 10-12 days a year at the most companies unless there's hospitalization for a medical emergency. Amidst this, the concept of psychological state leaves is non-existent.

While it does appear to be psychological state awareness is rising at Indian workplaces, this is not true everywhere. invite a three-day psychological state leave from your employer and therefore the cold stares will follow.

"My company has psychological state awareness sessions often. But the truth is that the HR team itself isn't conscious of these issues. If you time interval off, they ask questions and even proof," said Megha Gonsalves, a technology professional from Mumbai.

The 'proof' that companies enforce refers to the doctors' certificate for sick leaves. But what about mental health? How will an employee be ready to produce such documents, unless he/she is hospitalised for further treatment?

Here, having a transparent policy for psychological state would help. as an example , why can't psychological state leaves be made a part of the regular sick leave? this is able to enable employees to require day off for anxiety/depression and allied issues without feeling guilty.

Companies could offer say upto five to seven days during a year as psychological state leaves. The key here is to trust the worker and not invite proof. No such proof exists except the medical bills for anti-depressants which isn't prescribed to everyone.

Corporate HR managers would say why have these leaves within the first place when individual employees can approach their team managers for specific time off? the solution here is stigma.

At a mean Indian workplace, psychological state issues would cause employees being termed 'unstable' and 'unreliable'.

Shaeeda Nigam, a 29-year-old human resource professional from Kolkata recounts how she was faraway from a key project overnight when she sought leave to ascertain a therapist.

"I are handling severe anxiety and panic attacks since 2019. I just needed two days leave to ascertain a psychologist and obtain some medical tests done. But this backfired and that i was faraway from a core project i used to be performing on ," says Nigam.

She has now switched jobs but remains not fully comfortable seeking leaves for psychological state . Nigam expains that while her team knows about her anxiety issues, there's still an inherent fear that her employer may consider her incapable.

"Often, I structure excuses of getting a fever. Because unfortunately fever is suitable but anxiety isn't ," admits Nigam.

While workplace stress is among the various reasons for deteriorating psychological state , having a conducive HR policy to permit psychological state leaves may be a must-have.

But, preconceived notions about employees 'faking it' continue at the workplaces. Also, what must be drilled down is that psychological state is simply like all other medical condition that's treatable with therapy and drugs .

Priyanuj Tyagi who heads talent management at an insurance broking firm in Hyderabad says that offering psychological state leaves may be a tricky situation because they would not want employees to misuse leaves.

When asked whether the organisation will take responsibility for a mental breakdown of a staffer within the office, he has no answers.

Corporates also got to realise that there's a transparent impact of psychological state on productivity. So if an employee turns up at work with a nasty psychological state , this might affect their daily tasks and eventually also cause financial losses.

The World Health Organization estimated that India will suffer economic losses amounting to a staggering 1.03 trillion dollars from psychological state conditions between 2012 and 2030.

Though India-specific information isn't available, data from the American Psychiatric Association showed that employees with unresolved depression experience a 35 percent reduction in productivity. this is able to contribute a whopping $210.5 billion loss a year in absenteeism, reduced productivity, and medical costs to the US economy.

The Indian economy and its corporations can certainly not afford these losses. the choice to supply psychological state sick leaves must be made soon; better late than never.

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