Union Budget spotlight on mental health may push India Inc to act

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Union Budget spotlight on mental health may push India Inc to act

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Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's budget speech turning the spotlight on the issue is likely to give a push to India Inc to prioritise mental heal

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Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s budget speech turning the spotlight on the issue is likely to give a push to India Inc to prioritise mental health for employees in a bigger way.

Several mental health experts to officials across companies like Dabur, GE, Paytm, Flipkart, ABB, RPG Group, Mphasis, Genpact and Accenture told ET that they expect to see more time and money being pumped into safeguarding mental health of the Indian workforce in the coming months.

“It is heartening to see the government acknowledge the heavy toll that Covid pandemic has had on the mental health of individuals,” Mohit Malhotra, CEO of Dabur India, told ET.

“We see such initiatives now becoming commonplace across organisations.”

The finance minister on Tuesday announced the launch of a national tele-mental health programme soon. “This will include a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence with Nimhans (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences) being the nodal centre and International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore providing technology support,” she had said in the budget speech.

The long pandemic has compelled several companies to take up some measures to help employees and their families cope with the stress and other mental health issues. These include one-on-one counselling sessions with psychiatrists, webinars, round-the-clock helplines, peer group support, and grief counselling (especially during the second wave when many lost loved ones to Covid-19).

For example, GE has launched ‘It’s okay not to feel okay’, a campaign to help employees break the psychological barriers, said Neerja Bhardwaj, executive HR business partner at GE India Technology Centre.

Officials across companies lauded the efforts of the government on mental health. “The pandemic has brought mental wellbeing to the fore….it is an admirable effort (of the government) that will help people prioritise and get access to the right resources to enable positive mental wellbeing,” said Krishna Raghavan, chief people officer at Flipkart.

Lakshmi C, MD and lead – human resources at Accenture in India, said, “This is a welcome step towards normalising conversations around mental health and encouraging people to embrace mental wellbeing with dignity and compassion.”

Raman Kumar Singh, CHRO at ABB India, expects an increase in the number of holistic employee wellness programmes as well as “deeper collaborations with holistic health experts”.

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