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Bringing Mental Healthcare To Indian Railways, Arushi Sethi Is Leading The Grassroot Revolution

  • IWB Post
  •  March 2, 2023


The painful on-foot migration undertaken by laborers during the pandemic was a glimpse of the massive disruption that the suspension of railways in India could lead to. A country that shelters crores of people keeps moving every day due to the round-the-clock functioning of Indian railways.

 However, the seamless robustness of the commutation industry is often  premised on long working hours, erratic sleep patterns, and burnout of its employees which can contribute to their mental health deterioration. Working day in and out to keep the vastly different areas of our country connected, the railway employees are often forced to neglect their own well-being.

 Arushi Sethi, the CEO of Trijog (an organization committed to rendering professional mental help) is revolutionizing the railway sector by collaborating with International Transport Workers’ Federation to facilitate a mental health helpline number for railway employees. The helpline will be functional 12*7 and will be run by health professionals at Trijog, who will use counseling as a tool to address the issues of railway employees.

 “It was always one of my dreams to take mental health awareness to the grassroot level and help every tier of the society address their concerns. We hope this helpline can be conducive for that vision,” says Arushi.

 The seeds of this initiative were sown during the pandemic when Dr. Syed Asif Chowdhury, the global well-being and HIV program coordinator at International Transport Workers Federation, experienced immense anxiety and reached out to the International Mental Health Support in London for help. During one of his  conversations with Arushi about his experience, it struck to them that the trade workers and railway employees who have had to battle similar circumstances were even more disadvantaged due to the lack of awareness. And, that is when they had their eureka moment and decided to launch this helpline that would cater to the individual needs of every railway employee. The helpline is aiming to serve around 12 lakh railway employees.

 At a time when the job industry is becoming increasingly dynamic and is  demanding marathon labor from its employees, Arushi feels that this initiative can be an eye-opener for both public and private enterprises to become responsive towards the well-being of its employees.

 “In the commutation industry employees are often worried about transfers and suffer from exhaustion due to long periods of mobility. Yet, these issues often stay concealed and we hope that we can bring them into light and address them,” continues Arushi. She also believes that the initiative will destigmatize discourses on mental health, especially for railway drivers who avoid reporting their concerns fearing a revocation of their license.

 Although very hopeful about the potential of the helpline to handle various concerns, Arushi also notes that the commutation industry has to also bring some larger structural changes that can positively impact an employee’s life, which includes adequate staffing and provision of sufficient leaves to reduce the work pressure. After all, mental health could also mean different things for different people.

 While Arushi feels that the step is fundamental in democratizing psychological well-being and bringing it to the masses, she also recognises that the road is still long and more organizations need to commit themselves to the cause to bring a revolution. “I believe that both public and private enterprises need to invest some amount in funds that will be devoted solely for the mental well-being of its employees and stakeholders. These funds can be utilized by initiating  training and workshops at workplaces on mental health awareness. The communication around emotional health has to be normalized by including it as a part of induction training. Organizations also need to make employees feel at home by holding events celebrating inclusivity and diversity,” remarked Arushi about taking mental health to the elementary zone.

 Having said that, she is affirmative that the initiative will definitely open up important conversations in rural areas, since many railway employees come from rural areas. “The mental aid in the form of therapists has existed for a long time now but it’s often the acceptance and awareness that people lack, especially in the rural areas, that makes mental health inaccessible. I hope that through rural railway employees, people around them can acknowledge, and at least begin to welcome the idea of psychological well-being,” says Arushi.

Written by- Tripti Moolchandani

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