Begin the Conversation to Build Awareness and Reduce Stigma
It’s not uncommon to hear negative comments about co-workers:
- “Keep your distance – she’s nuts.”
- “It’s like he has a dark cloud above him all day long.“
- “I think they both have a screw loose.”
- “She’s so moody!”
As a society, we’re generally not adept at empathizing with people who have mental health issues. A stigma (a set of negative and often unfair beliefs) surrounds psychological illness – we envision someone who is completely out of touch with reality, dangerous, or incompetent.
Unfortunately, these beliefs are often internalized by those with mental health issues themselves, creating a “self-stigma”. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing. It can perpetuate a negative cycle whereby those with mental health issues try to protect themselves by withdrawing from social interactions, and that isolation only serves to exacerbate their illness.
“It’s time we start the real conversations needed to shift attitudes toward mental health in the workplace” – Dr. Heather Stuart
In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental health problem. It touches all of us – either directly, or through families, friends or colleagues.
Yet for such a large problem, it’s a very personal condition that can be almost invisible in the workplace. A Canadian Medical Association study found that 77% of Canadian workers said they would NOT tell their manager if they were experiencing a mental health problem.
You can help change this situation:
Watch your language
Discourage disparaging remarks and labels. Encourage respect of all.
We fear what we don’t understand. Share knowledge that helps break down stereotypes.
Establish a patient and accepting atmosphere to prompt openness.
Be available to staff struggling with mental health issues, as well as co-workers having difficulty working with them.
Break the silence
Let others know mental health is not a taboo subject.