Reducing mental health stigma
Research demonstrates that mental health requires continual discussion in order for stigmas around it to be challenged, and ultimately removed.
The World Health Organisation defines stigma as: A major cause of discrimination and exclusion: it affects people‘s self-esteem, helps disrupt their family relationships and limits their ability to socialize and obtain housing and jobs. Stigma can lead to a lack of support or empathy for people with a mental illness, leaving people embarrassed, misunderstood, and marginalised. Stigma can cause more than hurt feelings. It can result in symptoms being ignored, lead to poor recovery and a lower quality of life due to isolation1.
The following strategies can help to continually challenge mental health stigma in workplaces.
Keeping mental health at the forefront – collateral for raising awareness
A number of organisations (in addition to your workplace’s employee assistance program, should you have one) have collateral that can be used in workplaces free of charge – and displayed for example in offices, lunchrooms, on notice boards, on an intranet page or in meeting rooms.
Some contain useful facts and statistics about mental health, and some are specific to mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Others may contain important phone numbers and contact points for people who wish to seek assistance for themselves or know how to talk to a work colleague.
Keeping mental health awareness at the forefront is a key strategy.
Talking about mental health at team meeting or gatherings
Talking about mental health at work reduces the stigma and provides employees reassurance that it is okay to discuss mental health issues with colleagues and managers. Like physical safety, putting mental health as a regular agenda item at team meetings, or having periodic meetings dedicated to discussion of mental health can assist with this.
Heads up also have a training designed to equip anyone managing staff with the knowledge, skills and confidence to deliver mental health toolbox talks to their team. It aims to encourage conversations about mental health in the workplace, reduce workplace stigma and support staff who may be experiencing a mental health condition.
Taking part in key mental health awareness events
Hosting mental health awareness events in the workplace not only puts a spotlight on mental health and mental illness, it also provides an opportunity for employees to openly discuss mental health and continually challenge the stigma surrounding it. The Western Australian Mental Health Commission has created a publicly accessible calendar of events which includes mental health awareness days / weeks in Australia. Each mental health event has its own website with information regarding hosting events.
Two key events your workplace can participate in are World Mental Health Day and R U OK? Day.
- One of the known risk factors for suicide is that an individual does not feel connected to others. Workplaces have a unique opportunity to enhance connection, and R U OK? Day in September each year aims to prevent people feeling a lack of connection through encouraging regular, meaningful conversation.
- October 10th is World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health Day is an initiative World Federation for Mental Health for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy to raise public awareness of mental health issues worldwide.
Mental Health Australia leads the World Mental Health Day campaign in Australia and each year resources are produced to help organisations host an event in their workplace – including event guides, posters, logos and partner packs.