Indian techies are living through a nightmare and desperately seeking mental and emotional support—online.
India’s $150 billion IT sector, which directly and indirectly employs around 10 million people, is in hot water. Once a prized area of employment, it now faces multiple challenges: shrinking international markets, dramatically changing job profiles, and massive cost-cutting. The result is an expected bloodbath.
And all this is wreaking mental and emotional havoc among employees. Adding to the woes are the lack of a support system and the stigma attached to mental healthcare. So the traumatised ones are increasingly turning to online counsellors.
An acute cash crunch, heightened anxiety, worsening depression, low self-esteem, and lack of motivation are only some of the problems the besieged employees are haunted by, according to YourDost, one such counseling service.
Over the past few days, YourDost opened up a hotline for those who had recently lost their jobs or who fear being laid off. Between June 29 and July 01, the platform logged over 260 phone calls and around 800 chats. The biggest share of these, 43%, came from the IT industry.
According to the startup’s records, 57% of the callers did not seek any support from friends, family, or professionals before reaching out via the hotline.
“They did not want to be tagged as ‘mad,'” YourDost co-founder Puneet Manuja told Quartz. “Culturally, we’re not very open to sharing our vulnerabilities.” However, the anonymity offered online, where professional counselors speak to people hiding behind self-selected usernames, makes people comfortable.
The anonymity is particularly helpful to men—of all those who called YourDost, 67% were male. Elaborating on this, Manuja said, “The macho mard ko dard nahi hota (a man doesn’t feel pain) attitude associated with us stops us from expressing ourselves, seeking support. In this medium, we can seek help without hurting that image.”
Over 42% of the calls received came from small cities like Alwar in Rajasthan, and Muzzafarnagar and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, indicating that the problem goes beyond the tech sector or the big cities. India may be the world’s fastest-growing major economy, but there is no respite yet from joblessness.
Given the gravity of the situation, Indians will need all the help and support they can get. However, there are only 3,800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, and 1,500 psychiatric nurses to look after a country of 1.3 billion people.
Two-and-a-half-year-old YourDost and a handful of others such as Gurugram-based ePsyclinic, Mumbai-based InnerHouse, and Bengaluru’s Seraniti are plugging that huge gap.
And it couldn’t have been more timely for the hapless Indian employee.