Mental Health Stigma

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Health Assured team

05 March 2019

Mental health stigma relates to negative attitudes and perceptions surrounding mental health issues. Despite greater awareness of it, there are some outdated and incorrect assumptions that persist around the topic. 

One in six employees experience a psychological problem at work every year. And the stigma makes it difficult for people to speak about and seek help for. 

Employers must understand how mental health stigma in the workplace works. This is because it creates a huge impact on motivation and performance. 

Identifying and reducing mental health stigma encourages a happier, healthier workspace. In this article, we’ll cover mental health stigma in detail, cover different types of stigmas, and learn how to reduce them at work.

What is stigma in mental health? 

The mental health stigma relates to negative perceptions held about people suffering from a psychological illness or disorder. 

These can vary from anxiety to depression to borderline personality disorder. Each of these illnesses has a varying degree of associated stigma. 

Everyone has different attitudes and experiences of mental health; and these can impact how people view others with psychological issues. Because mental health problems aren’t always visible, understanding them can also be slightly more difficult. 

The causes of mental health stigma can come from ill-treatment, exclusion, and isolation–from colleagues or whole teams. It can cause employees with mental health conditions to feel undervalued, unworthy, and discredited.

As a society, we’re increasingly talking about the stigma around mental health more. And learning how to support people going through illnesses at home and the workplace. But unfortunately, negative stigmas and stereotypes still exist, and further effort is needed to eliminate it completely.  

Effects of stigma on mental health in the UK

Research shows that these mental health issues cost UK employers £53-56 billion a year. This figure reinforces the strive for improving workplace health. But beyond the financial costs, you firstly have a duty of care for all employees. 

Mental health issues can be extremely isolating and confusing—and persisting stigmas make them more difficult to deal with. Stigmas prevent people from opening up about their mental health and seeking help. 

But when left undiagnosed and untreated, mental health problems can drastically impact all areas of life, including one’s career.

Poor mental health can impact employee organisation engagement, productivity and performance. Over time, this can lead to organisational problems, like staff turnover, sickness absence and productivity losses.

Different types of mental health stigma

There are two main categories for mental health stigmas: social stigma (or public stigma) and self-stigma.

Social stigma is a negative stereotype associated with mental health problems. It marks employees experiencing issues as 'different' and prevent them from fitting into societal realms.

Self-stigma is when an individual has negative thoughts about their own mental health condition. This can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and hopelessness.

Both types of stigma can cause employees to feel unvalued, uncomfortable, and fearful of sharing their health conditions–let alone ask for help. Employees might not choose to disclose their issues due to embarrassment or fears of being misunderstood by their colleagues. This silence can present a major barrier to treatment and recovery.

How to reduce mental health stigma in the workplace 

The stigma of mental health in the workplace will thrive further, unless employers take steps to intervene and make adjustments. Below, we’ve put together some ways to improve workplace mental health stigmas and start supporting employees.

Talk openly about mental health

If you don't discuss mental health in your organisation, then employees won’t feel comfortable opening up about it. When you talk openly about employee wellbeing, your staff gain the confidence to join conversations. 

Openly talking about mental health helps to take away negative perceptions about it. The more we talk about it, the easier it is to understand–and more people will reach out for support. 

Another way to do this is gaining backing from senior management. Getting managers to acknowledge and speak up about mental health at work sets the tone for the whole business.

Educate others about it

Training managers to identify and respond to mental health issues can support employees in the long run. It also collectively reduces misconceptions surrounding illnesses.

Mental Health First Aid courses can be a great education tool. The course teach your staff to spot the signs of a mental health condition and intervene effectively.

Mental health champions can support any employee who finds themselves struggling at work. And they can also helps shift attitudes about mental health in the workplace environment.

Be conscious of word choices 

The type of language used when addressing mental health can greatly impact others. We should all be aware of our words; and how they contribute to stigmas.

When discussing mental health, try to be open and non-judgemental. Remember that everyone’s experience is different. Have empathy for other people’s emotions and show your support where you can.

Use an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

EAPs offer counselling support to employees whenever they need it. The programme provides a safe, confidential space for employees to open up about personal or work-related issues.

This free employee service takes away the barriers between poor mental health and recovery. (Remember, these sometimes stop people from reaching out for help). By promoting the service regularly, you can also reinforce the message that mental health matters.

Get expert advice on mental health stigma with Health Assured

Dealing with stigma at work can be a challenge for both employees and employers.

By supporting your staff and reducing mental health stigma, you’ll improve staff wellbeing, productivity, and engagement.

At Health Assured, our experts can help transform your workplace into one of support and openness. We can help you and your staff through challenging periods at work with our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

Get in touch with us to find out more on 08002062534.

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