Work stress is driving corporate staff in Delhi NCR to seek help from peer groups and life hack professionals.Take the case of a senior communication manager working in Gurgaon. She had a troubled marriage because of a skewed work-life balance; her work demanded a lot of travelling, meetings. As her family life suffered, she sought counselling from Harsh Arora, a life coach who runs a meet-up group called Let’s Talk about Life. The stressed senior manager attended group discussions and individual sessions, “and finally, the couple found amicable solutions”, says Arora.
Just how terrible corporate stress can be was evident last year from the suicide of Vineet Whig, a 47-year-old Chief Operating Officer, who jumped to his death from a Gurgaon building. Reportedly, a suicide note in this pocket said that he was “fed up” with himself. Very recently, a 45-year-old BPO employee jumped to her death from the seventh floor of her office building on Sohna road, Gurgaon. She was reportedly suffering from depression.
What stands between stress and death is a combination of counselling and drawing strength from others’ experiences. That’s where life coaches and self-help groups come in.
Life coach Jasmin Waldmann has been conducting the Depression Free group coaching session for six months now in Gurgaon. She started this in Gurgaon because that’s where self-help and counselling are needed the most, she says, adding that the problem is most acute among the relatively young employees.
Each two-hour session has five participants. “Everybody can speak up openly, and share, and listen. The conversations are confidential,” says Waldmann. “Quite often, people are shy in the beginning and don’t speak up. But if anyone else speaks, it helps other, too, as usually we face the same hurdles.” The effort to find easy, practicable solutions.
“A lot of people [here] are suffering. Their workload is heavy and demands [they make] of themselves too high. Sometimes there are new faces, while some people wish to come again. The good thing is that people come out of [depression] too,” says Waldmann.
Loneliness is the killer
“Isolation is depression’s main weapon,” says Mridul Trehan, organiser of the Delhi Depression Support Group, which has over 300 members. He has been holding monthly meet-ups in Delhi and Noida, and plans to start them in Gurgaon as well. “The aim,” Trehan says, “is that a person should be able to tell their story — when we listen to each other, we don’t feel alone anymore.” He himself had to overcome a phase of depression. “There was a time when I couldn’t get out of bed for 17 days at a stretch. I’ve been a recovering patient myself, which is why I took charge of this group.” Trehan has developed recovery techniques that he now shares with the other affected people. His sessions include videos by internationally renowned mental health experts. “The level of research done outside India is much higher than what we have here,” he says. “We have a WhatsApp group that keeps us connected.”
Harsh Arora’s life hack group, started four years ago, now has 600 members, who meet once a month at coffee shops and members’ houses in Delhi NCR. “Ever since news of WHO’s year-long campaign ‘Depression: Let’s Talk’ came out (this month), we’ve been getting more calls from people who have depression or feel lonely,” says Arora. “People open up to strangers more.” He adds that group attendance rates in South Delhi and Gurgaon are almost double of that in West Delhi.
Share and be stronger
Pratibha Agarwal, whose group Listening Circles originally began with home-schooler mothers of Delhi, now hosts a monthly session for anyone who wishes to attend. “Earlier, there used to be only women; now we have a mixed group of people,” says Agarwal. “The idea is to share, whatever is inside you at that moment, with others. The pre-requisite is that one should be non-judgmental and conversations should remain within the circle.” Youngsters facing conflict with their parents come to these sessions as well.
However, the rate of participation in counselling and self-help groups is still very low in India, believes Gaurav Agarwal, who formed the group Listening Circle – Share & Listen, in January this year. Compared to the sessions he ran in the United States, the response in India so far has been muted. But that maybe because the discussion around mental health has only just started opening up in India. “The idea is for one to be heard, especially if one is suffering from depression, as people tend to open up more in group circles,” says Agarwal