On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, IIM Bodh Gaya organized a Wellbeing Conclave’21. The objective of celebrating World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues worldwide and mobilize efforts to support mental health. This day provides an opportunity for all the stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. IIM Bodh Gaya has always been at the forefront of the discussion around mindfulness. Taking another step in this direction, a panel discussion was organized and the esteemed guests for the discussion were Dr. Neena Verma, Appreciative Inquiry Thought Leader and Grief & Growth Specialist, and Dr. Shubhra Hajela, AVP, Global Wellbeing Leader, Concentrix. The theme for the day was ‘The Science of Wellbeing.’ and centered around grief and its relevance in the context of the workplace. The patron for the conclave was Dr. Vinita Sahay, Director, IIM Bodh Gaya with the convenors being Prof. Teena Bharti and Prof. Nidhi Mishra.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a complex array of mental health challenges for everyone and a cause of deep concern for the student fraternity and has created a stressful work environment for managers requiring them to make quick decisions amid uncertainties and insufficient information to resolve the ongoing issues. Focusing on wellbeing and mental health could be the answer to many problems of the current times. Faced with new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, adapting to taking classes from home, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends, and colleagues, we must look after our mental and physical health.
The session started with Dr. Sahay welcoming the esteemed guests and speaking on the recently passed Daughter’s Day. She expressed her happiness on how girls are excelling in every field that they are stepping into and how certain tasks that have always been known to be responsibilities of sons, are being taken up by daughters wholeheartedly. She shared her experience of grief and wellbeing, thus opening the forum for discussion.
The discussion started with Dr. Neena sharing her pleasure on seeing people becoming more upfront about mental wellbeing on not just a personal but also professional level. Up until the recent past, mental wellbeing practices were being carried out under the garb of other things, but it is heartwarming to see that more and more people are realizing the importance of it. She continued her address by talking about what grief is and how complicated it is to deal with. Human beings carry their feelings and emotions to their workplace as well, they might not show it openly but it is projected in the way they engage with people. However, we as a society are not equipped well enough to deal in situations where we have to engage with someone who is grieving. The statement holds true in an organizational context as well, given the fact that there is a lack of grief support and bereavement care in the corporate world. She emphasized on the need to change it, especially in today’s time when COVID has brought grief to such a significant share of the population.
That being said, we are making progress in this aspect, which Dr. Shubhra affirmed by talking about several Employee Assistance Programs that are being offered in organizations that include counselling sessions, webinars, etc. Employers are acknowledging the fact that mental wellbeing is very important for an employee to perform better, which is why these EAPs are not just for coping with grief and bereavement but to enhance their mental wellbeing in general. Work from home has blurred the line between personal and professional lives which makes it all the more important to support and empower employees, and this responsibility falls upon the shoulders of leaders.
The final phase of the discussion was centred around how students have dealt with their problems for the last two years. Dr. Neena shared her experience of how she has spent her nights talking to young adults who have been overwhelmed with the happenings around the world. They have persevered through them but there are instances where they are bound to question everything, sometimes themselves. Their elders should become their guides who can offer them a space to express their problems, without necessarily trying to fix them. She talked about the HELP approach – holding a space for them where they act as empathetic listeners perhaps. A chance for them to articulate their problems can help clear the fog and get a clear perspective without having to consult a counsellor per se.
The session concluded with both the speakers offering their words of wisdom as their closing remarks. Dr. Shubhra encouraged the students to make the most of technology and engage with their faculty and fellow students as much as possible, given that we can only do so much sitting at home. Dr. Neena ended the session with a few words from her poem from her much anticipated book, and emphasizing how hope plays a big role in tough times. In her words, “We should always be mindful of what is showing up, when things are falling apart.” Prof. Teena Bharti and Prof. Nidhi Mishra brought the session to a close by offering a hearty vote of thanks.