Keeping an Open Mind: Reducing the Stigma of Mental Health in Your Workplace

05.01.2018

We’ve all had to grapple with the fallout of personal or professional adversity at some point in our lives. The results usually aren’t pretty, oftentimes creeping into other aspects of our health. We anxiously endure sleepless nights spent tossing and turning. We suddenly lose our appetite and refuse to eat, or do the opposite and run into the open arms of ice cream and other comfort foods to help relieve the stress and pain.

Even though we’ve all been there before, many of us still find it hard to openly talk about and address depression, anxiety, and other common mental health issues. Instead, they tend to get stigmatized, trivialized, brushed to the side, and ultimately left alone to linger and get worse. That’s particularly true in the workplace, where such issues can be especially difficult to address.

As we enter National Mental Health Month, it’s important to keep in mind some small things you can do as a leader of your organization to help remove the stigma of mental health in your workplace and ensure that those who need help feel comfortable seeking it out.

Choose Your Words Wisely
Many of us innocently use phrases like ‘crazy,’ ‘unstable,’ or ‘bipolar’ in a casual or joking way, not fully aware of how those words can impact someone who may be struggling with mental health issues. Being more mindful of your choice of words and avoiding harmful labels can go a long way toward building a culture of mutual respect. Likewise, finding opportunities to speak out against the stigma can encourage others to join you in using more respectful language around the workplace.

Offer Support
There are many resources available to educate people about mental health issues and support those who need help. And employers are in a unique position to provide access to those resources. Many companies have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), health coaching options, on-site therapists, or other resources designed to help those who need it. Informing employees about these resources and encouraging them to take advantage can make employees feel more comfortable about finding help.

Establish a Healthy Culture
Consuming a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise does more than improve your physical health, it can also pave the way for many mental health benefits. It’s a proven fact that healthy behaviors can reduce stress, minimize anxiety and depression, and improve sleep—all of which can affect mental health and well-being. Educating your employees about these benefits and taking a holistic approach to wellness can put the spotlight on mental health issues and place them front and center along with physical and financial issues.

If we get injured while hitting the gym or catch that bug that’s been going around the office, most of us have no problem going to the doctor to get checked out. So, why do so many of us decide to shrug off mental issues or choose to deal with them alone? Reducing the stigma of mental health in the workplace can help employees recognize the symptoms, keep from ignoring them, and find help when they need it. Next week, we will discuss some things you can do on an individual level to improve your own mental health.

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