Championing Mental Health in the Workplace: Insights from Devangana Mishra, Founder, BrainBristle

Devangana Mishra_Founder_BrainBristle


Welcome to our exclusive interview with Devangana Mishra, a renowned advocate for inclusive education and mental health. With over 12 years of experience in the field of autism and education, Devangana has made significant contributions across various organizations in India, New York, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. Her passion for creating a positive impact led her to establish BrainBristle, a niche think tank focused on children on the autism spectrum. Devangana’s expertise extends beyond advocacy, as she is also an accomplished writer, having published her debut book of poetry, “Desierto Florido,” during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, she is working on her second book of poetry, reflecting her commitment to education, mental health, and creativity.

In this interview, we dive into Devangana’s approach to promoting mental health and well-being in the workplace, her insights on successful mental health programs, and her perspective on the inclusivity of mental health initiatives in India. She also shares a challenging situation she encountered while working with organizations on mental health issues and how she effectively addressed it. Additionally, Devangana provides valuable tips for CHROs (Chief Human Resources Officers) on building their own mental health awareness and capabilities. Her vast experience and unique insights make her an influential figure in both the literary and advocacy spheres. Let’s delve into this enlightening conversation with Devangana Mishra, a true champion for mental health and inclusive practices.


Can you share your approach to promoting mental health and well-being in the workplace as a mental health leader?

I wouldn’t call myself a mental health leader, but I value my mental health deeply, and thus my team’s mental health becomes very important. It’s essential fuel for me to function at an optimum level so I presume it’s the same for others. I begin by just listening,my team’s needs, woes, worries, breakdowns and then empathetically navigating situations first with them, then hiring for the role so that one has agile adults who can navigate their own mental health without compromising on quality of work.

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Can you provide examples of successful mental health programs or interventions you inspire from?

I truly believe in the power of a) reading b) problem solving and c) presence- there’s too much infiltrating these murky areas of mental health- but just to simply read carefully that what is important, understand, absorb/ problem solve through logic and trial and errors and respond is a good way to balance mental health, the peaks it might create and then being present, through listening, responding, reacting, reasoning- whatever the need of the hour might be. There’s no one way solution to anything- but just presence and an ability to tackle complexity through building resilience through reading or problem solving of all kinds helps and I’ve led many, many workshops on this across multiple organizations.


Do you think the mental health initiatives in India are inclusive and address the diverse needs of its employees?

I don’t think so, because I don’t think employees still understand their own mental health issues. We pay so much attention to achievement that it comes at the quality of not listening to our own bodies and rhythms, once we find synchrony in the two, employees will be able to advocate for what they need rather than what is provided to them in the lack of accurate information, for a check mark, on some organizational list. We must be able to understand our own mental health needs and then provide a systemic framework that loosely accommodates those needs.


Can you describe a challenging situation you encountered while working with an organization on mental health issues and how you addressed it?

I worked to build a high school as an advisor, where children on the spectrum of autism and other needs were not attending classes at their intellectual level because of their behaviours causing a hindrance in mainstream classrooms- by listening to professors of different subjects and how these students were causing a mayhem in their classes and then working to create a system to first serve the needs of the students, then training staff on handling all situations, then working to merge the two was my biggest initiative while at my role as an advisor. Then I was also on the Leadership Team at a big NGO, where we constantly had unpredictable challenges with high goals always looming ahead of us both occurring at the same time, listening to my team, their needs and then still working towards goals with whatever manpower was ready to forge forward, possibly fueling the rest to buck up, while doing weekly calls, workshops, systemized organization of what we need, what we’re learning, how we’re using was very helpful for me, as well as my team in meeting goals, dealing with challenges, yet being together as one.

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How do you stay updated on current trends and research in the field of mental health?

I just read and listen to everything, everywhere which seems relevant and then try out what resonates with me and could be of help to my team and the people I’m working with.


Can you share some tips for CHROs in building their own mental health awareness and capabilities?

I reckon it can be easy for CHROs to take up too much of the load of their employees welfare on them, thus, to first choose yourself, your mental health, what you need and embodying that helps- encouraging team leaders, managers, other staff members to lead mental health, social, other initiatives, share their own mental health stories, listen to those of others, work as a team to manage the mental health of one another, knowing in all times, “I’m only as good as you!”- can be the best way to build capabilities and growth in our yawning systems.



Devangana’s insights on successful mental health programs, the inclusivity of initiatives in India, and her experiences in addressing challenges demonstrate her expertise and commitment to creating positive change. Her valuable tips for CHROs emphasize the importance of self-care and building a supportive team culture. Devangana influential contributions towards inclusive education and mental health make her a true champion in her field.


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