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The most common aspect of Equality that most of us consider, is ‘gender equality’. However, we need to consider that challenges such as mental health illnesses too can impact people’s experience at work.
It is important to understand each individual’s definition
of equality, which can stem from their lived experiences, the challenges they
have faced, as well as their aspirations for the future.
One factor that hampers the idea of ‘equality for all’ is
the stigma around mental illness. As a society, our lack of awareness about
mental health isn’t helping our fight for equality and acceptance, and this
includes equality at the workplace.
The ignorance, stigma, lack of education and awareness all
lead to one outcome – a reduced understanding of what an individual actually needs,
whether it is professional help or empathy from friends and family. This lack
of understanding also impacts the quest for equal workplaces; unless
individuals with mental health issues know that they are welcome and will
receive the support they need, they cannot contribute to their full potential.
While there is some increase in awareness about mental
health, it is not enough. Our stereotypical assumptions about people with
mental health issues being difficult, unreasonable, violent, etc prevent us
from treating them with respect and dignity.
It is critical that we start seeking solutions to these
challenges, not just to create an equal society but also productive and
One such individual who is proactively working in this space, is Rashi Vidyasagar. A criminologist by training, Rashi’s efforts are directed towards bringing the much-required change in the areas of mental health issues and violence against women. Rashi has also been working extensively towards helping organisation bring about the shift in corporate and social culture, and provide people with mental health support they need. She does this as part of the White Swan Foundation for Mental Health, a not-for-profit organization that offers knowledge services in the area of mental health. their aim is to provide patients, caregivers and others with well-researched content that will help them make informed decisions on how to deal with mental health issues.
Recently during a panel discussion on A Culture of
Equality – Building Blocks, held at Accenture, Rashi spoke about her work at
the White Swan Foundation, where she works to raise more awareness about mental
health issues and further equality for those with mental health related
challenges. The focus of the conversation was on the need for creating and providing
an environment where each individual feels involved, included, and valued – the
cornerstone for achieving true equality.
What she said during the panel discussion helped me
understand mental health issues better. You can watch the complete video here:
Her suggestions to include mental health as part of the
‘sickness policy’ in corporates, and to not equate mental health issues with
lack of productivity came across as an important first step towards creating a
more positive workplace environment. I couldn’t help but agree with her
statement that ‘to make it okay to talk about mental health is the shift in
culture we need’.
Rashi also spoke about how to encourage both employees and
employers to freely talk about such issues, and to participate in sensitisation
workshops. To have a line of communication that is equal for everyone in the
organisation – Managers, CEOs, Managing Directors, everybody needs to speak the
same language of empathy as the person who is going for (mental health)
workshops,’ she said while giving an example of how an unironed shirt could be
a hint that someone may be going through bigger challenges than just being
lazy. It is important to stop and dig deeper then.
Changing the work culture to reduce stress and provide a
healthier work-life balance is also another valid point that I found myself
It was inspiring to know that Rashi’s definition of equality
at work includes one where people with mental health concerns are welcome too.
The video is a must watch to understand how we can collectively work towards helping people overcome the challenges and join the mainstream corporate workforce.
In association with Accenture
Piyusha is a sometime sane reader, part-time crazy writer and full-time wacky alien.
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