Stigma remains a major barrier to people with mental health issues, such as depression, getting help when they need it. This leads to conditions worsening, often along with job performance and many other aspects of life.
There are effective ways to combat stigma and encourage people to get help when they need it and employers can play a key role because people spend most of their days at work.
Here are five ways employers and employees can work together to effectively tackle stigma:
1. Educate & raise awareness
- Sharing information with employees on the early warning signs of depression and other mental health conditions.
- Reinforcing that treatment works and getting help early produces the best results.
- Reassuring employees that conditions like depression are common and they are not alone.
- Create personal connections
Personal stories are powerful in dispelling harmful myths and stereotypes. They also put a positive, human face on mental health conditions. Consider bringing in speakers with real-life experiences to share their journeys about how treatment and support made a positive difference in their lives.
3. Start conversations
Mental health is still too often a taboo topic. The more we talk about mental health conditions, the more we encourage conversations. By making it OK to talk, we normalize these conditions. It encourages employees to seek help when needed. Ideally this includes organization leadership, which promises to shift the organizational culture to be more mental-health friendly.
4. Provide support and show empathy
People experiencing mental health conditions often feel isolated and alone. It’s helpful for co-workers to offer support by:
- Being good listeners.
- Recognizing that what the person is experiencing is difficult.
- Taking time to understand what a co-worker may be going through.
- Depending on your comfort level, letting a co-worker know that you’re there for them, asking “are you ok?” and “what can I do to support you?”
Together, this creates a more supportive work environment and in turn improves retention, reduces absenteeism and improves engagement.
5. Eliminate structural barriers to care
When employees come forward for help, it’s essential that accessing care is made easy. Referral to EAP Assist is a first step.