A stigma within a workplace can occur as a result of stereotypes and negative perceptions towards an individual dealing with a mental illness, and in some cases can be a barrier for that individual from seeking help for what is often a very treatable condition. People living with a mental illness are frequently perceived as irresponsible, lazy or dangerous. They may face rejection, bullying and discrimination – as unlike a physical health issue, mental illness is often viewed as character flaws or personal weaknesses.
The truth is, many people living with mental health conditions are productive, reliable employees and leaders who live full and satisfying lives. Within some workplaces some employees keep their condition secret as they maybe that being open about themselves will be detrimental to their reputation, compromise working relationships, or even jeopardise their job.
So what are some of the ways in which your boss can help in eliminating stigma within the workplace:
- Educate and inform. Communicate about mental illness across the whole organisation though training/information sessions to reduce fear, stigma, and discrimination within the workplace. By doing this staff will have a better understanding of their fellow colleague with a mental illness.
- Promoting a healthy workplace environment. By establishing a culture that is conductive to supporting employee’s mental health by raising awareness of workplace policies and programs which promote mental, physical health and wellness.
- Training managers and senior leaders on how to identify the signs and symptoms of mental distress, and on available employee tools and support.
- Treat people with a mental illness with respect and dignity, as you would anyone else. Don’t discriminate when it comes to participation, housing and employment
- Being able to talk openly about individual’s own experiences of mental illness. The more hidden mental illness remains, the more people continue to believe that it is shameful and needs to be concealed.
Amanda Ogden is from Sydney Australia, and has spent the past 13 years working within the welfare industry in both administration and case management assisting people with mental health issues, mild intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries, drug & alcohol, homelessness gain employment. She also loves travelling, creating jewellery, music, friends and family.