As we conclude our special coverage for World Mental Health Day 2020, we honour Best Practices by Indian companies in CSR for mental health. Infosys, TCS, IDFC FIRST Bank, Dabur, Aditya Birla are among the top companies funding and designing programmes for mental health awareness and treatment. Their programmes take into account the importance of emotional wellbeing for both, employees as well as external stakeholders.
CSR for mental health
These companies are taking the message of self-care to the masses. More importantly, they are reaching out to the hordes of underserved people in rural and semi-urban areas who may suffer from mental illness.
This year’s theme for Mental Health Day is Mental Health for All: Greater Investment, Greater Access. CSR programmes by companies like IDFC FIRST Bank are so timely, they are already aligned with this theme of greater investment and access.
Says Rachana Iyer, Head, Corporate Social Responsibility, IDFC FIRST Bank, “In alignment with this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day, our CSR has been instrumental in collaborating with BALM (Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health) to ensure those living in the margins are supported with a holistic approach of poverty alleviation, holistic medical intervention and amplifying their voice to influence public policy. Our CSR team is committed to increasing social impact in the mental health space not only through funding but also with knowledge-sharing for increased awareness, livelihood creation and entrepreneurship development.”
Mental health programmes for employees
Says Dr. Sanjeev Kanoria, Founder, Suasth Hospital, “With the rise of telehealth services, companies can have tie-ups with healthcare organizations that offer corporate wellness programs and online services to a psychologist or clinical psychiatrist. Promotion of safe workplace practices amongst employees, unique, and customized wellness programmes can help employees deal with the current situation in a better way. With speedy improvements in artificial intelligence, each passing day brings more convenient apps for both diagnosis of early warning signs and primary assessment. The final diagnosis requires an assessment by a qualified and trained mental health professional. Companies can create a checklist to help the employees to recognize such mental health issues.”
Top companies investing in CSR for mental health
A shortage of doctors and the rising cost of medication have left many mentally ill patients deprived of the required treatment. The Chittaprakasha Charitable Trust provides residential rehabilitation centers for the mentally affected who are homeless. Infosys Foundation (the CSR arm of Infosys) has helped in the construction of a 7,500 sq. ft. building at Chittadhama in Karnataka.
Chittadhama came into existence in about 2009 and that was the time when the land was bought and the Trust was looking for donors and resources to kickstart the facility and that is when the Infosys Foundation came into the picture. They graciously said that they would bear the entire expenses of the building. CSR of Infosys also granted funds to the trust to ensure a steady supply of required psychiatric medication under ‘Manomaligi scheme’.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)
TCS Cares works with the TCS CSR team to extend mental health support to extended stakeholders, such as students from the IT Employability Programme, through podcasts, blogs and webinars.
Keeping in mind the diverse segments in the organisation, such as the LGBTQ community, those with disabilities, the webinar sessions are organised to explore the interdependence between resilience and workplace effectiveness.
IDFC FIRST Bank
Under its aegis of Education and Health pillars of their CSR mission, IDFC FIRST Bank recognised early on that poverty and marginalisation have been one of the most robust links to mental illnesses, often associated with homelessness. Within the Indian context, 22% of the population live below the poverty line, 1.8 million are homeless, and 73 million families lack adequate housing and safety.
Catering to mental health needs of such populations, therefore, require an approach that is beyond the traditional biomedical one which often focuses only on medication. “Psychological and social care is essential to curbing poverty traps and initiating a movement of this populace from the periphery of society to the centre. Persistent social inequities and lack of access to equitable opportunities often deplete an individual’s resources to cope,” says Rachana Iyer, Head, CSR, IDFC FIRST Bank.
The Bank collaborated with The Banyan’s sister concern, The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM), to provide financial support in the form of stipends and allowances to students studying masters and diploma level programmes. “At its inception, the goal of our collaboration with BALM was to train a cadre of mental health professionals, cognizant of field challenges and keen to create and influence change.” says Iyer.
From its inception till date, 110 students across different regions of India were supported by CSR of IDFC FIRST Bank to complete their Masters in Applied Psychology and Diploma programmes such as working with vulnerable children. These students hail from families that are largely labourers, farmers, construction workers, tea-estate workers, carpenters in vulnerable and low-income or conflict zones across India. After their studies at BALM, most students move on to working on mental health interventions in their own communities or in other low-resource settings. This multiplier effect is another reason IDFC FIRST Bank supports this programme.
The Bank is supporting another project in CSR for mental health. Over the years, the CSR team realized that enabling economic support in the form of sustainable livelihoods to those living with mental health conditions in ultra-poor communities is necessary. To this effect, a disability allowance (DA) ranging from Rs. 150-300 per person is in place for those in need. Beneficiaries of DA are individuals experiencing severe mental illnesses and living in situations that are deemed as ‘at risk of homelessness’. This includes people who have single or elderly carers, no other source of income, difficulty meeting daily needs such as food and transportation.
Under this programme, 158 women and men from low socio-economic backgrounds living with severe mental health conditions in Kovalam, Manampathy and Sembakam three villages localities of Tamil Nadu received an average of Rs. 300 per day.
Mpower is the brainchild of Neerja Birla (who is founder and Chairperson). An initiative by Aditya Birla Education Trust, it was founded with a vision to #StampOutStigma around the idea of seeking help for various mental health concerns. Every year on World Mental Health Day, Mpower conducts social media campaigns and activities to raise awareness and encourage dialogue around mental health, in collaboration with influencers and art and culture platforms.
This year, with the goal of making mental health care accessible to all, Mpower organised #EarForYou Sessions – free 20-Minute Online Counselling Sessions. People from any part of the country who need mental health support and counselling via Zoom Calls could connect with professional psychiatrists and psychologists.
The Tata Trusts initiated its work in mental health care when there was very little recognition of the burden of mental disorders, and a poor understanding of wellbeing and its impact on overall health. The Trusts’ involvement goes beyond providing financial help. Over the past four decades, its work in this area has been driven through grantmaking, direct implementation and co-partnership strategies with government and non-government organisations.
Despite the efforts of these responsible corporate citizens, CSR for mental health is still at a nascent stage in India. This area needs greater investment, awareness and openness.