On World Mental Health Day 2023, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw joined The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF) Founder Deepika Padukone, and Mensa Brands Founder Ananth Narayanan for the TLLLF Lecture 2023 on ‘The Future of Balance in Corporate India.’ 

In a freewheeling discussion, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw spoke about the cultural shift needed within corporates for better ensuring of the mental well-being of their employees.  

Fostering a culture where people can openly talk about mental health issues without feeling stigmatized should be the way forward and pave way for a more sustainable and healthier work life balance, she said. 

Ms Mazumdar-Shaw, who is part of the Board of Trustees of TLLLF, said there were two main triggers behind her involvement with the issue of mental health.  

First, it was the pressure of being an entrepreneur. This can be very “stressful” because one often feels alone while facing all the challenges and failures that are part and parcel of building an entrepreneurial venture, she said.  

Stepping into the role of a caregiver for her late husband John Shaw, who was suffering from dementia, was another trigger.  

In addition to age-related mental issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, conditions like schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression are equally concerning and complex issues that need attention.   

“I think it’s for us as leaders to really start empathizing with mental health issues in a different way. We often want to turn a blind eye, or we feel that it’s inevitable or that this is something which others need to deal with,” she said. 

Pandemic Put Spotlight on Mental Health 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of attention to mental health issues.  

“Post the pandemic, I think the corporate world has understood the magnitude of mental health issues.”  

In a corporate set-up, aspirations and competition are amongst the foremost reasons behind stress levels of employees, which many organizations fail to recognize, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said.   

“The root cause of attrition is stress. We need to see how we can address the stressful environment that people operate in. 

“Mental breakdowns among people are usually the result of a build-up of stress that is ignored or pushed down until it can no longer be ignored anymore. At Biocon, we foster an environment where our employees feel safe, healthy, and inspired. As an organization, we are focused on enhancing the mental, financial, and physical well-being of our people. 

“When the corporates back their people, they really come back much stronger,” she said, adding: “I think it is about understanding that investing in mental health care is investing in a more sustainable business.”  

Destigmatizing Mental Health 

Given that people have now started opening up about discussing mental health issues, it is high time to destigmatize them. 

“I think as people, as societies and as organizations, there’s always been a stigma associated with mental health. It’s only during the pandemic that all this came to the fore. So, in a way I think we should be grateful to the pandemic. 

“And then more than anything else, I think to make yourself mentally strong you need to engage with family and friends. That is a great support system,” she said.  

Regular Exercise is Good for Mental Well-Being 

Regular exercise and following a disciplined lifestyle are key to maintaining one’s physical and mental well-being.  

“Exercise is very important. I am very disciplined about exercising every day. I walk, I hit the gym, and I do yoga. These are all part of the routine I follow daily,” she said. 

“I believe that we have ignored mental health in a big way all these decades even though we knew it’s there. We ought to do something about it because it’s manageable, it’s treatable.” – Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw 

Mental Health Should Be Top Priority for Businesses 

Ananth Narayanan said employee mental health needs to be a top priority for businesses In today’s world 

“A physical ailment is much easier to take care of, but mental issue, you do not see it. So, I think taking care of mental health, at a company, community or personal level is incredibly important,” he said. 

Watch the entire conversation here: 

Lecture Series 2023 | The Future of Balance in Corporate India – YouTube 

Video courtesy: The Live Love Laugh Foundation  

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