One in four adults will struggle with a mental health issue during their lifetime. At work, those suffering — from clinical conditions or more minor ones — often hide it for fear that they may face discrimination from rivals or even bosses.
Those mental health experiences will differ according to race, economic opportunity, work type/physical environment and many other variables. These stigmas can be and should be defeated.
When managers understand mental health issues and respond to them, it can make all the difference for an employee professionally and personally. This involves taking notice, offering a helping hand, and saying, “I’m here, I have your back, you are not alone.”
When your people are struggling, you want them to open up and ask for help. For some people who are struggling with mental health, not talking about it is one of the worst parts. So by getting individuals talking about mental health, we can start to break down stereotypes. We can then improve relationships, increase access to support and remove mental health stigma.
The following five strategies can help any manager or organization create a culture that ceases to stigmatize mental illness.
Here are five ways managers can help drive a more empathetic culture:
1. Pay attention to language.
We all need to be aware of the words we use that can contribute to stigmatizing mental health issues: “Mr O.C.D is at it again — organizing everything.” “She’s schizo today!”
“He is so bi-polar this week — one minute he’s up, the next he’s down.” We’ve heard comments like these, maybe even made them ourselves.
But through the ears of a colleague who has a mental health challenge, they can sound like indictments. Would you open up about a disorder or tell your team supervisor you needed time to see a therapist after hearing these words?
2. Rethink “sick days".
If you have cancer, no one says, “Let’s just push through” or “Can you learn to deal with it?”
They know that it’s an illness, and you’ll need to take time off to treat it. If you have the flu, your manager will tell you to go home and rest.
But few people in business would then react to emotional outbursts or other signs of stress, anxiety, or manic behaviour in the same way.
We need to get more comfortable suggesting and requesting days to improve mental and physical health.
3. Encourage open and honest conversations.
It’s vital to create safe spaces for people to talk about their own challenges, past and present, without fear of being called “unstable” or passed up for the next big project or promotion.
Employees shouldn’t fear that they will be judged or excluded if they open up in this way. Managers can set the tone for this by sharing their own experiences or stories of other people who have struggled with mental health issues, accepting help and continuing a successful career.
They should also explicitly encourage everyone to speak up when feeling overwhelmed or in need.
4. Be proactive
Not all stress is negative, and people in high-pressure careers often grow accustomed to it or develop coping mechanisms. However, prolonged unmanageable stress can contribute to worsening symptoms of mental illness.
The US gymnast Simone Biles at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is a current example of how stress affects her mental health and performance. In May, Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka also withdrew from the French Open to protect her mental health.
Therefore, stopping and saying ‘there’s something wrong” and asking for help is a massive step for both of them.
Being on the world stage, putting their mental health first, takes bravery and courage to end their aspirations and dreams for gold.
How can managers ensure their employees are finding the right balance?
By offering access to programs, resources, and education on stress management and resilience-building.
In a prevailing marketplace survey on employee burnout,
Managers need to do a better job of helping their employees connect to resources before stress leads to more severe problems.
5. Train people to notice and respond
Most offices keep a medical kit around in case someone needs a bandage or an aspirin. We’ve also begun to train our people in Mental Health First Aid, a national program proven to increase people’s ability to r
Through role-plays and other activities, they offer guidance in listening non-judgmentally, offering reassurance, and assessing the risk of suicide or self-harm when, for example, a colleague is suffering a panic attack or reacting to a traumatic event.
However, assessing Mental Health issues can be difficult, with emotionally charged conversations, and they can come at unexpected times, so it’s essential to be ready for them.
Nearly 42% of employees report a decline in mental health since the pandemic began. (
Those efforts are even more imperative today.
AVAILABLE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
If you see a young person dealing with mental health who you feel is at high risk, please get in touch with emergency services.
Tel: 116 123
It is a safe place for people to talk any time they like, in their own way – about whatever’s getting to them.
An online community is offering support and advice on managing mental health.
Emotional support, guidance and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including families, friends and carers.