Each year for the past 68 years, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has designated a week in early May to promote mental health and raise awareness about mental illness. This year, the CMHA’s Mental Health Week will take place from May 6-8, and the theme is #GetLoud about what mental health really is.
They describe this initiative as:
“Mental health is a state of well-being, and we all have it. We might have a mental illness, and we might not. Either way, we can all feel well. We can all have good mental health. It is about having a sense of purpose, strong relationships, feeling connected to our communities, knowing who we are, coping with stress and enjoying life. And it’s never too early or too late to get there. But it’s not just about what you do for yourself, by yourself—everyone needs healthy and supportive places to work, live and learn.”
I encourage you to follow CMHA’s lead and #GetLoud! They make it easy for you, with a free downloadable toolkit available to you on their website. Go take a look, download their web banners, communications tools and shareable images created to help you spread the word leading up to and during CMHA Mental Health Week. Remember, the goal is awareness.
In working with companies to help them end the stigma of mental illness in their workplace, I often get asked what other initiatives a company can do during weeks like this, here are a few for you to consider:
Improve Policies and Guidelines
Review your current policies surrounding mental illness. Are you prepared, as an organization, to meet this challenge head-on? Or do your policies need improving so your response to mental illness doesn’t add fuel to the fire of stigma? There are many negative outcomes that can come from not having stigma-free policies, including “institutional stigma,” alienating employees who face mental illness, lost productivity and more.
Provide company-wide training on mental illness and stigma. Ending stigma takes more than simple awareness. It takes a deep understanding of what mental illness is (and what it isn’t), what stigma is and why it happens, and how we can change our workplace cultures to eradicate stigma once and for all. Ending stigma is a very real need: according to a Mentalhealth.net survey, 98% of respondents agree that those with a mental illness are stigmatized and discriminated against.
More than just one day
For this year’s mental health week you can do any and all of these things – but regardless, remember that improving your company’s response to mental health, and eliminating stigma, are year-round efforts. Overcoming this complex challenge, as well as changing the culture of your workplace, takes time and effort. But it can be done with the right training!
One option to consider: use the 2019 Mental Health Week to begin planning your training and awareness initiatives for the coming years. Once you have a clear plan in place you can begin moving in the right direction – towards a stigma-free workplace. The benefits of doing so are significant, as I outline in this blog.
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.