When COVID-19 hit Germany in March 2020, I was on maternity leave. Even though the first wave was difficult for me, it was somehow manageable. In fact, I never realised then how hard it could be until I returned from my maternity leave in October 2020. I still remember how I felt then: excited to come back to the office, to see all the familiar faces and hang out in our fun, lively office in Berlin. Before I left for maternity leave, our Berlin office was always alive. Workshops with colleagues. Friday drinks. Sometimes even Thursday parties too! That’s why it was quite shocking coming back to the office during COVID, as there were hardly any people around and the few people there had to wear masks and stay distanced. That was the time when it hit me: COVID really has changed everything.
Mental health at work matters. Why not try Selfapy? Find out more here.
The second wave was tougher
Gradually it got a bit better. I started to adjust to the new normal and was working from home, while my daughter had started at kindergarten. My work-life balance seemed to be in check. Furthermore, my team re-onboarded me and were very supportive, even managing to meet up a few times at the office and for walks. However, it hit the hardest when the second wave of COVID came around. The kindergartens were closed and my husband and I had to juggle work and take care of our daughter. It was one of the hardest times for the both of us. Ideally, we would have had our parents come over to help us — something that was not possible because of the restrictions. In fact, I have not been able to go home to India for almost two years now.
Mental health should not be taboo
In India, mental health is never discussed and talking about it openly is stigmatised, which meant I never gave much thought to what it means and how important it is. I would never have considered having a therapy session during a difficult period such as this, because people often have a negative attitude towards it. In fact, India was dubbed as ‘one of the most depressed countries in the world’ by the WHO in 2018-19. Yet up to 83% of people suffering from mental health issues don’t get the help they need, according to the National Mental Health Survey (2015-16).
And the impact COVID has had on everybody’s mental health is monumental. Staying at home has been challenging for a lot of people around the world, including working parents, who have had to work at home and meet their deadlines, but also take care of their kids at the same time. For me, there was a time when it was hard for me to concentrate over a long period of time. Sometimes I was irritated easily. There were also times when I had trouble sleeping and had low energy. As I started to read about it and talk to different parents, I realized that it is not just me but a lot of people and parents who are going through something similar. This study shows that the COVID-19 restrictions led to an decrease in the mental wellbeing of parents, with most of the study participants encountering multiple hardships: 69% said their household lost income, 60% experienced job loss, 45% dealt with a caregiving burden and 12% experienced illness.
What companies can do
During the second wave, many companies including ours saw a rise in mental health issues among team members. Here at DCMN, we decided to tackle this proactively: we researched and introduced the digital mental therapy app Selfapy for our employees at the beginning of 2021, with an offer of three months of free consultation. This app is based on scientifically proven courses and methods and is free of charge for those with a prescription.
I also decided to give therapy a try through Selfapy. I never imagined that talking about my mental health to a therapist could bring about such a big change to my life, while also radically reducing my levels of stress. Here’s something I’ve learned: We often talk about our problems with our friends or parents, who do not necessarily know how to deal with such conversations. However, when you start talking to a professional – someone, who has also seen a lot of similar cases and can thus help you define your health and wellness goals – it really makes a positive mental impact. My therapist talked to me not only about the current COVID situation and how it is affecting me, but also about the impact of personal problems and issues from the past. She even recommended very simple things like journalling which I never thought could help me in the long run. And because of the therapy sessions, I’ve become calmer and learnt to let go of things which are not in my control. I’ve also learnt to take the right decisions, ones which will help me personally.
It’s time for change
People often think that only those with a severe mental disorder or mental illness go to therapy. However, in the past year, something has changed. More and more people are talking about their mental health. I would personally encourage anyone who needs help to be mentally fit to go to therapy sessions and see the difference that it makes to their life. At the same time, it’s equally important for companies to acknowledge the impact that mental health can have on wellbeing at work. That’s what DCMN has done by introducing Selfapy and focusing more on the mental health of our team members. Rather than treating this as a taboo, companies should facilitate both team members and leaders to deal with such problems — and in a way that benefits everybody.
Want to find out more about Selfapy? Find out more here.