Monday, July 15, 2019 | Updated at 10:33 PM ET


How To Remove Stigma Of Mental Health At Work

First Posted: Mar 04, 2019 08:09 AM EST

It is a sad reflection of society that there is still something of a stigma surrounding mental health at work. Things have improved in recent years with people becoming more open with talking about it, but it's clear that there is still some way to go.

This then opens up the question as to how you can indeed change the way in which people perceive mental health at work. How is it possible to alter perceptions that may have formed decades ago? With one in four adults now suffering from mental illness, this is something you will probably deal with at some point.

Well, perhaps these few points may make a difference.

Focus On Language

One area to focus on is the use of certain language. Knowing how to refer to mental illness in an appropriate manner does make a difference with how it is perceived.

All too often, there is something of a camaraderie in the workplace where people use terms such as referring to someone as 'being bipolar' or 'schizo' in a joking manner. While they do not mean any harm by using those terms, it does then hurt those individuals that are suffering from some form of mental illness.

If people talk in that way, then would it encourage those individuals to speak out about their own issues? There is a good chance that they will seek to hide it even more than before.

Making it clear that the use of such language is not acceptable will help to show that mental illness is something that is serious and should not lead to a joke.

Consider It As A Sick Day

 There is a real misunderstanding of mental illness. People that have never suffered from it believe that you can easily push through feeling depressed or that anxiety is nothing to worry about.

That is wrong. If you had flu then you would find yourself sent home and told to put your feet up. A company must look at providing people that have shown signs of stress or mental illness the same leeway as they do with any other illness. The option of pushing on through those dark periods is something that people do not have.

Create An Environment For Open Conversations

More people now feel as if they can talk about their problems and mental illness, and that's great. Where a company comes into its own is by making sure that they create an environment where people feel free to discuss these things without disdain.

A medical supply company needs to create a space whereby employees are encouraged to talk about things without being viewed as unstable by others. They must feel that others will listen to them and not judged.

It is also an idea for managers or owners to discuss their own experiences with mental illness. This may come from a personal point of view or even to mention their own feelings on it. If those at the top act like this, then it means those further down the chain will tend to adopt the same attitude, and that is a good thing.

Teach People On How To Respond

A company that is serious about removing the stigma of mental health must work at teaching people how to respond. This is a huge problem. How do you react when someone you know is faced with a mental health crisis?

There is a movement in some companies to introduce a form of mental health first aid, and that is a good direction to head in. It can appear rather frightening when someone you know is suffering from depression or stress if overwhelming them. Knowing what to do next makes so much sense, and if a company pushes this as an option, then it does open eyes to the impact that mental illness can have on people.

Being Proactive Is Best

Leaving things alone is not an option. The only way in which the stigma can vanish is by being proactive. Believing that ignoring it will help is completely wrong.

Knowing that there are avenues to explore when you feel stressed and that things are getting on top of you is a wonderful feeling. Managers may wish to push the idea of getting balance in life to avoid burning out. Forcing people to take breaks and go on vacation also makes a huge difference as it allows the batteries to recharge.

The stigma of mental health is less than before even though it does still exist. Companies must do more to counteract this and to see it as the serious problem that it actually is. Anything else is pointless.

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