Reducing the stigma around talking about mental health at work

Posted at 2:43 PM, Mar 28, 2024

Think about the last time you had a conversation about mental health at work.

You may be more open to it now, but a lot of people still aren't doing it.

A recent poll from the National Alliance on Mental Illness found 74-percent of workers think it's appropriate to talk about mental health at work.

But just 58-percent say they'd personally feel comfortable doing that.

"When we think about the reality that stigma remains a concern, we think about what drives people to be concerned about being open. If they may have a diagnosis or be concerned about their own mental health. There's fear of judgment. There's fear of negative consequences at work," said Darcy Gruttadaro with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Gruttadaro said in order to close that gap, companies need to make mental health more visible, not just during Mental Health Awareness Month, but for the entire year.

That may mean having mental health front and center in emails that go out company-wide, during town halls or on the company's website or intranet.

That can also include company leaders making it part of the culture.

"They can certainly share a personal connection to mental health. They can certainly talk about why mental health is important from an empathetic, compassionate perspective. But just mentioning the fact that we all have mental health, and we need to take care of our mental health because it impacts all aspects of work can be extraordinarily important," said Gruttadaro.

Mental health conditions impact more people than you may realize.

One in 5 adults experience a mental health condition each year.

That could represent one person in each department, depending on the size of your company.

One concern you may have is how to start that conversation about your mental health with your manager.

"I would recommend just approaching it from the perspective of reinforcing that, although I may be experiencing some periods of anxiety, I still am a high performer. I still care about the work. I still will get the work done. I'll meet my deadlines," said Gruttadaro.

Gruttadaro said managers need more support too, because many say they don't always feel like they have the tools to address mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has resources to help with that as part of its Stigma Free Workplace initiative.