Research

9 Out Of 10 People Reporting Early Signs Of Mental Health Issues, Finds Study

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A survey conducted during the second wave of the COVID pandemic has found that 9 in 10 people have reported experiencing early symptoms linked to mental health issues.

The ‘Organization Psychological Risk Assessment’ (OPRA) survey was conducted by X-Leap, a design-led management consulting firm. The survey and OPRA toolkit were recently launched via an online event where findings were shared with a group of mental health practitioners, HR professionals, and OD experts.

As the survey shows, there are factors being experienced by respondents that could put organizations at a strategic risk. These parameters are directly related to a person’s job, the organization’s culture and leadership and factors like mental wellbeing support. Although 80% responded that they found their job to be meaningful, 40% found their work profiles to be monotonous. While looking at an organization’s culture and leadership, 35% weren’t happy with how change was managed at their company. 1 in 4 felt that there was lack of flexibility in work hours. What was significant was that half of the respondents were not confident with speaking about mental health issues at their workplace.

People also reported facing a range of symptoms with different levels of severity. Based on this, respondents were divided into those facing severe and those facing mild symptoms. Severe symptoms include, but are not limited to, physical and mental issues like insomnia, gastric/digestive issues, lack of concentration, and poor decision-making. Factors like uncertainty in the workplace and striking a work-life balance, were reported to affect those with intense symptoms in a greater way.

At an individual level, these conditions are challenging enough. But X-Leap argues that at an organizational level, these emerging mental health issues could pose a strategic threat to organizations.

Commenting on the need of adopting a rights based approach to mental health, Priti Sridhar, CEO at Mariwala Health Initiative, and Chief Guest at the launch event said, “We need to look at mental health from a lens of rights. Are we ensuring that everyone has an equal and fair chance to be part of their organizations and be able to perform to their full potential?”

A few job-related parameters as visualized in the OPRA report

A further deep dive into the two groups shows that a person’s intersectional identity (for e.g. age, gender seniority) also offers more detail. For example, among respondents women have been found to be more sensitive to factors like work environment than men. Whereas, factors like job security factor more where men are involved.

Difference found among the mild and intense symptom groups as shown in the report

Although many organizations have responded to these well-being challenges by incorporating measures like well-being leaves and other EAPs, a lot can be improved. The OPRA team at X-Leap suggests that the lens be flipped. Saikat Ghosh, Managing Partner at X-Leap, says “Instead of viewing this as an ‘employee problem’ that requires a ‘welfare approach’, it is strategically important for organisations to think of deeper and more informed interventions which could genuinely improve employee wellbeing, thus leading to better performance.”

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Shruti Pakrasi, Organisational Psychologist & co-creator of the OPRA toolkit also feels the same, “Mental health and emotional wellbeing in the workplace is a function of a complex interaction between 3 factors – the workplace, the work itself and the individual. Most organizations are focusing their interventions on equipping the individuals, but psychosocial risk factors present in the other two factors also need to be considered.”

Hamsaz Wadhwani, CEO, The 7th Fold, added, “There needs to be a lot of education among HR professionals about mental health and well-being. There continue to be lots of myths and misinformation about mental health and how it impacts an individual. Otherwise, these interventions will be off-the-shelf programs”

OPRA results were captured from a pool of 71 global respondents, who represent all walks of professional work life, from freelancers to permanent employees. Out of this, approximately 67% are those with post-graduate degrees, while around 27% of them hold graduate degrees.

OPRA as a solution can serve as a quick but robust wellbeing diagnostic that can be adopted by organizations. The result is a visual dashboard (modified to fit each organization’s context) that provides an overall representation of an organization’s state of well-being.

It is not an assessment individual employees’ wellbeing. In fact all information is collected anonymously from employees.

Should organizations feel the need to roll out any change interventions, the team at X-Leap is well equipped and supported by a number of qualified partners including HR and well-being firm The 7th Fold, and social enterprise Rays of Yoga.

Norway based VMerge are outreach partners.

X-Leap is a human-centered strategy and culture solutions firm, working with changemakers in social and private enterprises to build a kinder world – one where people, planet and profit can co-exist.

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