- Reshma Valliappan shared her story of experiencing workplace bullying because of her mental illness.
- About two-thirds of employees with a mental condition experience discrimination at work or while applying for new jobs.
According to a 2017 study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, about two-thirds of employees with depression or other mental problems either experience discrimination at work or while giving interviews for new jobs.
Reshma Valliappan, a Pune-based mental health activist, shared her story of experiencing workplace bullying because of her mental illness. She shared that she worked in various corporate organizations before becoming an activist. She never opened up about her being a schizophrenic to any of her co-workers or employers, except one of her colleagues with whom she used to share a friendly bond.
“The one time that friend let the information slip to a colleague, everything changed,” Reshma shared. After the revelation, she started experiencing sexual advances and disrespectful comments. That incident terrified her to such an extent that she vowed to never return to a corporate job. According to her, quitting that full-time job was the best decision in her life. In her new work life as an activist, she has found her financial freedom, happiness, fellowships that help share her perspective, and in general a nomadic lifestyle.
Reshma’s story is the greatest example of what happens when people with a mental illness share their reality, specifically in the workplace. Workers with a pre-existing psychological issue often experience the fear of losing out on responsibilities and work promotions.
“There are a large number of persons with mental health issues who are already a part of the workforce. Unfortunately, owing to prejudice, and often self-stigma, information isn’t always freely divulged,” said Vandana Gopikumar, co-founder of The Banyan ( A Chennai-based NGO). According to her, unidimensional portrayals often cause their exclusion from active participation that leads to the further perpetuation of stereotypes and discrimination.
However, a recent law ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (2016)’ offers a legal mandate for employers to ensure “reasonable accommodations” for specific conditions that are legally considered disabilities and mental health is also included. But in reality, many employees hesitate to get a mental health certificate to avoid being labeled at the workplace. For similar reasons, counselors appointed by the management tend to be not approached.
A workplace that promotes mental health and supports employees with any psychological condition is more likely to reduce absenteeism among employees, increase their productivity, and benefit from the associated economic gains, World Health Organization (WHO) suggested.