Even though there has been some progress made to normalize seeking treatment for mental health issues, the stigma surrounding mental health treatment is still very present in our society, including in the workplace.
Often, we don’t understand what people are going through with their mental health if we don’t have first-hand experience with our own mental health issues, or from loved ones. This can lead to stereotyping and prejudice, and when we start saying people with depression and anxiety, for example, are “unstable and threatening”, those labels go a long way to discourage other people who are struggling with mental health issues from seeking treatment for themselves. They start to fear being negatively labeled and treated differently.
According to psychiatry.org:
“A 2019 national poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) found that mental health stigma is still a major challenge in the workplace. About half of workers were concerned about discussing mental health issues at their jobs. More than one in three were concerned about retaliation or being fired if they sought mental health treatment.”
“More than half of people with mental illness don’t receive help for their disorders. Often, people avoid or delay seeking treatment due to concerns about being treated differently or fears of losing their jobs…”
“Stereo types and prejudices: People with mental illness are dangerous, incompetent, are to blame for their disorder, and are unpredictable.”
Sometimes these stigmas can lead to fear mongering when one employee who isn’t experienced or educated about working with people with mental health issues, convinces other staff members they’re in danger, and that can be incredibly stressful to a person. You’re also potentially retraumatizing people who’ve been in dangerous situations before. Everyone handles stress differently. Some people may become severely traumatized by that, when there’s no real danger present. The person in question likely just needs help and someone to care enough to ask them how they’re doing.
If you feel someone in your workplace is struggling with mental health issues, the appropriate response is to help them get treatment. Trying to force them out of the workplace is discriminatory and sends a horrible message to other employees who may be struggling with mental health issues.
Let’s work together as a community to continue to erase the stigma around taking care of our mental health. We all need to look out for each other and encourage professional treatment for ourselves, our friends and our families, when we’re struggling with our mental health.
There are so many resources to help you and your workplace become more educated and aware, including Psychiatry.org, and our local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found at www.nami-humboldt.org.