Abolishing the stigma surrounding mental illness is essential to creating a truly happy and healthy workforce – but how can we do it? Two industry leaders have some advice.
“The progress that we’ve made is great but we will have a struggle for some time to come because the whole issue of stigma,” said Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
“After over 30 years being in the mental health field, I know that every single one of us has a personal story – whether it’s about ourselves or about someone we know – yet we’re still very reluctant to talk about mental illness.”
“Employees are fearful that they may damage their career prospects or are at risk of being seen as somehow weaker or less capable,” says Glenn Riseley, president and founder of Global Corporate Challenge.
“It means that employees are often hiding the fact they need help and there is no way for the employer to provide that help,” he added. “By the time the issue is on the table, a lot of time and money and productivity has been lost.”
According to Bradley, employers need to put accommodation policies in place and educate employees so they know how to ask for help when they need it.
Knowing what to ask for
“If I had a back problem I’d go to my employer and ask for an ergonomic assessment,” explained Bradley – but she says too many workers don’t know what to ask for when it comes to mental health.
“It’s very important for managers to provide education and support to employees in knowing what to do,’ she added – both for those suffering from mental health problems and for those who are seeing the signs in a co-worker.
“Time and again I’ve heard people say ‘I would have offered help if I’d known a little bit about the problem and what to do,’” revealed Bradley.
According to her, it’s no different to regular first aid – employees should be trained on identifying the signs and symptoms as well as given information on how to help.
“A true culture of health is one where employees feel empowered to raise their hand when they have a problem and proactively deal with things,” asserts Riseley.