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Break Down the Stigma of Mental Illness
By Terri Dougherty

The topic of mental illness comes with a stigma that could be weighing down your workplace.


More than half of those with mental illness donít receive help, often because they are afraid of losing their job or being treated differently, according to the American Psychiatric Association. This can hold people back from getting the treatment they need, resulting in lower productivity and more absenteeism and turnover.
To keep the stigma of mental illness from having a negative impact on your workforce, take steps to create a culture that supports mental health.

This involves four Ps: Programs, Policies, People, and Promotion. This strategy puts resources in place, creates a supportive structure, and increases understanding of the topic:

Programs

Employee assistance: An employee assistance program (EAP) is a popular and effective way to give workers a confidential means of getting help with mental health issues for themselves or family members.

Benefits: Your health benefits package should provide easy access to mental health support and care. Assess the plan to make sure it complies with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

Services: Wellness services such as health coaching, stress management resources, and mental health screenings provide more options for individuals to get the help they need.

Policies

Leave: Be flexible. Allow sick days to be used for reasons relating to mental health and provide periods of leave for therapy appointments. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can apply when leave is requested for mental health care; make sure supervisors understand this.

Scheduling: Offer flexible scheduling options that give workers more control over when work gets done. Set boundaries around after-hours emails and other communication.

Anti-harassment: Use anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies to support a respectful workplace. A negative work environment strains mental health and worker well-being.

People

Leadership: Leaders should understand the importance of mental health issues and how they impact the workforce. They can set a proactive tone by championing policies that support mental health and by prioritizing their own mental health care.

Training: Train supervisors to recognize warning signs of mental health issues. They should know how to respond appropriately and refer individuals to resources. In addition, training in communication and emotional intelligence fosters a supportive work environment.

Promotion

Resources: Use flyers, posters, and your company intranet to publicize your EAP and other mental health resources. Emphasize that assistance programs are confidential.

Team communication: Share information about mental health resources during team meetings.

You canít change company culture overnight, but taking steps to raise awareness of mental health issues helps take away the stigma and improves worker well-being.


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