An Assocham study showed that nearly 43 percent of private sector employees in India suffer from mental health issues at work. In addition, a WHO report in 2017 found that 18% of depression cases worldwide originated from India.
While workplace mental health issues are a reality for most businesses, the stigma associated with mental health issues often prevents people from seeking help. Stigma is the result of negative perceptions and stereotypes and reflects a lack of understanding of mental health issues. External stigma often involves negative opinions, judgments, comments and assumptions made by others; internal stigma can occur when the person affected by mental illness internalizes these negative messages.
Why is stigma a major problem?
While most mental health issues are common and treatable, the stigma or negative stereotypes associated with mental illness often compels employees not to talk about it. Even in fairly progressive workplaces, many employees keep their mental health issues under wraps, fearing that being open to talking about them will hurt their reputation, jeopardize their working relationships, or even put their jobs at risk.
Employees with untreated mental health issues tend to have more serious and costly health issues in general. For example, their risk of heart attack and stroke is twice as high, and people with mental health problems are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes. It all adds up to the days of. missed work and lost productivity that can dramatically affect the performance of organizations.
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How Organizations Can Remove Stigma From Their Workplaces
Helping improve mental health and well-being at work is not only beneficial for employees, but also for the company and society as a whole. Here are some ways organizations can break down the stigma surrounding mental health:
Awareness raising and open discussions
The more people are aware of the mental health issues and challenges that people with mental health issues face, the less powerful the stigma becomes. Through mental health education, companies can reduce stigma, discrimination, negative stereotypes and fear in the workplace. In addition, it is essential to create safe spaces for employees to talk about their own challenges without fear of being “judged”. Employees shouldn’t be afraid of being excluded if they open up in this way. Leaders can set the tone by sharing their own experiences.
More attention to the language
It is common in different organizations to address people with mental disorders with words like “Downy”, “Scary”, “Schizo”. This can contribute significantly to the stigma of mental health problems. It is time to end such practices and adopt practices that reduce stigma, discrimination and stigma against people with mental health problems.
Increase access to resources and programs
Many organizations use Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to support mental health in the workplace. Some employees may be reluctant to use this resource due to shame and lack of understanding, but it can go a long way in creating a workplace that values each individual equally and does not create discrimination or stigma. Businesses can also provide direct access to mental health resources, apps, and even mental health professionals who can make employees feel supported and cared for.
Mental health training
It is crucial for every business to promote a culture that values every employee and understands that it is normal to suffer from mental health issues. Mental health training for employees can help them recognize the signs of someone who may be struggling with a mental health issue and connect them with supportive resources. Through games and other activities, they can offer advice on how to listen without being judgmental, reassure, and assess the risk of suicide or self-harm.
Making mental health stigma a thing of the past is the need of the moment for organizations. The common human bond that each person shares with another person is more important than what separates us. Everyone struggles with doubt and anxiety. However, empathy is vital to seeing this common ground and building on it to create opportunity and hope for all.