1 in 5 people are dealing with a mental illness. As you may know, today is “Bell Let’s Talk” day, and this is an initiative carried out by Bell Canada, in order to work towards reducing the stigma of mental illness. These anti-stigma campaigns are trying to target the deeply ingrained biases that many of us have when it comes to talking about addiction, and mental illness. The root of stigma comes from our upbringing, our family of origin, a lack of understanding, and perhaps a lack of personal experience. The stigma around mental illness is a significant issue in our society today, as many people still feel shame and embarrassment for visiting a therapist, taking medication, or requiring accommodations.
The stigma concerning mental illness has a deep effect on the individuals who are struggling with these issues. The effects of stigma can be compared to carrying an extra weight, as these individuals may react to the stigma by choosing not to speak about their illness. Coping with the stigma associated with mental health adds an extra burden to these individuals, and maintaining stigma in our society can lead to individuals not choosing to get help for fear that they will be ostracized , or viewed differently.
The workplace is one environment in which it is especially difficult for individuals to speak about mental illness. As a treatment centre that focuses on treating individuals and families with addiction and mental health issues, we encourage all employers to be progressive and informed about their workforce. To assist with fostering an environment that is free of stigma here are some guidelines:
– Be supportive, non-judgmental, and accommodating of all employees, regardless of their health issues, or the position that they hold within the company
– Provide diversity education, and educate all staff about the basics of mental illness, and how to practice work-life balance
– Foster an environment that is safe, supportive and encourages employees to feel comfortable coming forward to ask for any accommodations they may require
– Provide a range of effective Employee Assistance Programs as an added support for employees
With each person on the planet that starts breaking down the barriers related to mental illness, the closer we will find ourselves to a world where people do not feel shame for seeking the help that they need.