Mental Health and Counselling Service

Working for the empowerment of tea plantation workers, we observed that women form a considerable and indispensable part of the work force employed by the tea industry in Assam. But the situation of women workers at the workplace justifies a sustainable approach for their wellbeing. The common reasons for the  disparity among women workers are: gender inequality, which is prevalent across all sections—social, economic, and political, resulting in illiteracy, socio-economic gender bias, and suppression of women’s basic human rights. Due to unfavourable living conditions, there is depression and stress, domestic violence, alcoholism, gender bias, crime against women, and a slew of other societal ills that severely impede the advancement of women workers on tea plantations. Gender inequalities exist in tea plantations, resulting in unequal access to resources and opportunities for men and women, which manifests as violence through the practice of differentiation.

In tea plantations in Assam, we recognize that the communities we work with, deal with trauma in their day-to-day lives and are largely deprived of adequate mental health care that they require in order to get back on their feet. To bridge this gap, SEWA developed and implemented barefoot counselling in Assam’s selected tea estates, with the goal of fostering resilience among tea communities and ensuring their access to community-based mental health care.

Under this initiative, in the last one and a half years, over 400 tea plantation workers have received TOT training on barefoot counselling skills. Over the last year, nine tea estates have been covered, and workshops have been conducted with workers and supervisors to increase awareness of mental health and counselling. The SEWA team also assists in the identification and capacity building of “Barefoot counselors” (mental health caregivers) who are trained and provide basic community-based counseling support.

SEWA has developed a training package for trainers in Barefoot Counselling to expand the presence of community level mental health care givers and make basic mental health care accessible at the grassroots. The training package focused on a practical, hands-on approach for tea plantation workers to understand, guide, motivate, and improve their behaviour and performance at work. It will help people appreciate the emotional well-being of a person and human behaviour and create a conducive  culture and amity among workers and supervisors. It also stresses both professional and family relationships. This keeps workers motivated, and they perform to the best of their capabilities.

Our  TOT on barefoot counselling  key areas are –

The basics of Barefoot Counselling to assist in building relationships

  • A better understanding of human behaviour
  • cousnelling skills
  • Identifying and responding to mental health issues
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and its techniques
  • Professional and family relationships
  • Workplace ethics and morality
  • Gender-based violence ( prevention, response, rehabilitation, trauma, etc.)

The mental health programme of SEWA through the promotion of barefoot counselling in tea estates revealed a positive change to address the barriers and challenges for women workers in the workplace, and an environment has been created to access the services for protection and response when violence occurs. The community-based intervention and its trained change agents are capable of reducing workplace and family stress and developing a sustainable mechanism for continuous stress reduction.