How to reduce mental health stigma in the workplace

A quick summary:

70 million working days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.

As a result of C19, medical professionals are reporting that pre-existing mental health conditions are worsening, and the number of people experiencing new mental health issues is on the rise.

Working from home through another lockdown has left many of us feeling exhausted, isolated and uncertain about what the future holds. It’s more important than ever to protect employee’s wellbeing.

Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, is the number one step for supporting mental wellbeing at work. It will allow employees to feel more comfortable discussing any emotional battles they might be facing, allowing you to provide the necessary support.

Keep reading for a few practical ways you can help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace.

It's time to rethink sick days

Just like someone would take time off to recover from the flu, they should feel comfortable taking time off to recover from a mental health-related illness.

Breathe HR ran a study that revealed roughly 40% of employees are uncomfortable telling their managers they need to take days off for mental health reasons.

People can be reluctant to talk about their mental health due to fear of judgement from employers and colleagues. It’s important to communicate that mental illness isn’t a weakness to empower employees to be honest and open about their reasoning for needing time off.

If someone takes a mental health-related sick day, check-in with them to offer support. This will help to further break down the stigma by establishing trust and encouraging open communication going forward.

Provide mental health training

Many companies are training team leaders to help them identify and assist with mental health issues. The MHFA saw the importance of this and created a course people can take specifically to qualify as a Mental Health First Aider.

Having a team member who’s trained to recognise when someone is struggling with their mental health will identify any problem before it escalates to something more serious.

Just like physical health, mental health issues will differ in severity. Let managers know it’s important for them to flag more serious mental health issues; this will ensure they’re not jeopardising their own wellbeing, and that employees struggling are getting the support they need.

Open communication

Ultimately the only way to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace is by having open and honest conversations with your team.

Encourage mental health conversations amongst your team by:

  • Inviting guest speakers to host online workshops about mental-health or related topics. This will spark conversations and educate the team on what their colleagues might be experiencing, allowing them to provide peer to peer support. This month Healing Clouds have been hosting free mental health workshops for Heka members, addressing everything from gender identity, to different forms of therapy.

  • Using key dates such as Movember and National Stress Awareness Day to talk about specific issues. Last November Team Heka took part in the “Move for Movember” campaign by walking, running, or cycling 60km.  Our efforts seek to raise awareness for the 60 men we lose to suicide each hour, every hour across the world. This way we’re stimulating conversation about a topic often stigmatised, and encouraging physical fitness to improve mental wellbeing at the same time.

Set an example by discussing your own mental health openly with your team. If people hear team leaders opening up about their own mental health experiences, they’re more likely to feel it’s acceptable to talk about their own mental wellbeing.

What's next?

Through rethinking sick days, maintaining open communication, and providing mental health training, you’ll be able to create an environment where mental health isn’t stigmatised.

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but bias and stigma should shame us all.” - Bill Clinton.

The first step to creating a wellness-focused culture is to truly understand what your people need and expect.

We've created a free Employee Health Survey Template for you to get honest feedback on the current state of your company’s health approach and how your employees want to be supported.

Download your free Employee Health Survey template here.

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