With 1 in 4 people experiencing mental illness in their lifetimes, mental illness has an impact on the workplace. The stigma associated with mental illness leads to lost productivity due to absenteeism, presenteeism, employee turnover and more.
Despite significant gains in awareness in recent years, mental illnesses like clinical depression or anxiety disorder are still treated far differently than physical illnesses. As a result of the confusion, isolation and lack of support created by stigma, far too many people are suffering in silence with untreated mental illnesses.
How can you respond to this challenge in your workplace? Here are 5 ways to eliminate mental illness stigma in your workplace:
Every meaningful culture change starts with leadership. From the C-Suite through to HR and management, leaders need to want to end mental illness stigma and create a workplace where all illnesses are treated the same. There are many reasons for leaders to get behind this movement, from the ROI (which we dive deeper into in this blog) to better supporting employees and creating a healthy workplace culture.
From Awareness to Action
In the last 5 years, awareness about mental illness and the stigma surrounding it has increased dramatically. That is a fantastic first step – but it is only the first step. Moving from awareness to action can be a challenge for many companies, because this is new territory. The most effective way to empower your entire workforce to change their thinking about mental illness, and ultimately to change their behavior and eradicate stigma, is to offer comprehensive training.
Train your Teams
Changing your employee’s understanding of mental illness and stigma is absolutely possible, but it takes the right kind of training. For any training to be effective, it must provide your workforce with an understanding of what mental illness is in an accessible and engaging way. You need to motivate and inspire your workforce to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Since this is a long-term culture change, the training provided can’t be a simple “one and done” option. Mental illness and stigma are complex challenges that require initial training and regular review – and the ability to refer back to a library of resources when needed, as situations arise.
Provide Tools & Resources
In order to successfully empower your employees to better respond to mental illness, you will need to provide tangible, actionable tools and resources that are easy to find, easy to use and effective. That’s why our comprehensive program includes video and written content,
core material and curated content, individual and group activities, as well as:
- Downloadable guides
- Program overview and workbook
- Lesson and module summaries with links to all research and all curated content
- Facilitation guides for group activities such as role-plays and case studies
- Management guides (specific to manager roles and responsibilities)
- Policy guides (for HR)
Stigma-Free HR Policies
Don’t forget your HR Policies – they are one of the most overlooked aspects of ending mental illness stigma in the workplace! Often these policies unintentionally create what is called “institutionalized stigma” because the policies managers are following have gaps that allow those with mental illness to fall through.
For example, do you have absence policies that ensure flowers and/or get-well cards are sent to all employees on a medical absence? Or only the ones off with disclosed physical illnesses? It is important to have internal communication policies in place to help your managers respond when an employee takes a medical absence but doesn’t disclose the reason. These are only some of the delicate situations that must be handled properly to ensure stigma isn’t allowed to grow and flourish.
Get Started Today
This short list offers 5 tangible ways you can start building a stigma-free workplace today. There are many reasons to do this, as we have outlined in previous blogs on the ROI of reducing stigma and how doing so can make your EAP stronger. So why not get started today?
If you would like to learn more about how your company can better respond to workplace mental illness and stigma, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit our website at www.stigmazero.com.
Founder of StigmaZero, Author & Instructor of the Create Your StigmaZero Workplace Program
I founded StigmaZero to help employers address the complex and challenging reality of mental illness stigma. We offer companies an innovative solution: our Create Your StigmaZero Workplace online program, which is designed to eliminate the negative impacts that stigma can have on your culture as well as the cost of lost productivity. This program creates real, lasting impact on your company’s ability to manage mental illness and stigma.