One in five adults experiences a mental health condition each year. This means mental illness stigma affects a significant chunk of the American population, including people in offices and worksites across the nation. Depending on the size of your company, 1 in 5 could represent one person in each department—dozens of faces, dozens of names, dozens of human beings on your staff wanting to have a serious conversation about workplace mental health, but having zero resources and a whole lot of barriers to do so.
Untreated mental health conditions can have a real impact on the day-to-day workings of a company, both financially and in terms of morale. Symptoms can include: sleep problems, lack of concentration, aches and pains, irritability, low motivation or self-medication. These symptoms can have a negative impact on the workplace.
There are many ways that an organization can support individuals experiencing mental health challenges, yet the biggest obstacle is often getting employees to utilize those supports and services. Eight in ten workers say shame and stigma prevent them from seeking treatment for a mental health condition. In addition, mental illness costs the economy about $200 billion in lost earnings each year.
Businesses everywhere can begin to change this by becoming a StigmaFree Company—a company with a culture of openness, acceptance, and understanding about employees’ overall health and well-being.
What Does a StigmaFree Company Look Like?
Our work environment has a huge impact on us. It is imperative for our workplaces to be mentally healthy and supportive, unfortunately 52% of employees say their company doesn’t do enough to promote employee health. You can take steps to change this:
Create company policies regarding mental health. You can support your employees in receiving the help they need by offering:
- Adequate insurance coverage
- Employee Assistance Programs
- Accommodations and/or disability planning for people with mental health conditions
- Access to quality care
- Policies to support family caregivers
Show support to employees. Supervisors and employees should be open to conversations about how to support employee mental health, be proactive in approaching coworkers who may be struggling and be understanding if someone needs accommodations or time off work.
Provide management training. It’s important for managers to know how to have effective conversations about mental health and wellness in relation to conversations about performance and discipline.
Decrease stigma in the workplace. Using non-stigmatizing language, encouraging employees to support one another and providing resources about mental health helps create a healthy workplace culture.
StigmaFree Company is a company-driven initiative, so we cannot tell you how to run your company. However, we can offer these recommendations as guidelines for you to apply in a way that is appropriate for your organization.
How to Get Started
NAMI’s StigmaFree Company initiative encourages Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), or business practices that take responsibility for a company’s impact on social well-being. This initiative combines CSR with employee engagement activities available in our StigmaFree Company Welcome Kit. The kit equips companies with the resources, assets and information they need to promote mental health awareness in the workplace and to encourage acceptance and understanding.
We are challenging all companies across America to step up and do their part in the fight against stigma. Will you accept the challenge?