As most seasoned HR leaders can attest, awareness of mental illness has improved over the past 5 years. Many companies are recognizing the negative impact and prevalence of mental illness, and understand it is a very real challenge to the well-being of their workforce. Many are also aware that it is costing billions in lost productivity every year.
The majority of employers have already implemented Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that are designed to support those who suffer from a mental illness. Others are more advanced in their effort to tackle this challenge head-on, having established company-wide awareness programs similar to Bell’s Let’s Talk Campaign or the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week.
Very few companies, however, are tackling the root cause of all the negative impacts of mental illness: stigma. Of the select few who are trying to reduce stigma through extensive education programs and awareness campaigns, almost none are getting to the very core of what actually causes stigma in the minds of their employees.
Until stigma is addressed, all other strategies will have a significantly reduced impact.
The only way to break down the barriers of stigma is to provide management and employees with a deep understanding of what stigma is in the first place. Why do otherwise educated, empathetic and kind people allow themselves to be influenced by stigma and negative thoughts towards mental illness? Why would someone who would instinctively show support to a colleague stricken with cancer shy away from another colleague battling clinical depression?
The answer is a lack of knowledge and understanding, which leads to fear. And fear is a powerful human emotion that can alter our behaviour dramatically.
In the example above, the person showing empathy towards the colleague with cancer understands that illness, and knows how to address it socially. Although challenging, this is a landscape they understand and therefore don’t fear. The understanding of mental illnesses like clinical depression, however, is far less.
The reality is, many people simply don’t know how to interact with the colleague suffering – which creates discomfort and fear. This, in turn, leads to opinions based on stigma and actions fueled by discrimination.
The challenge facing employers is not only to educate their employees about mental illness and stigma, but to do so in a way that will actually change their deep-seated beliefs regarding this complex topic.
HR leaders need an innovative solution to address the complex challenge of mental illness stigma.
I founded stigmaZERO to help employers address the complex and challenging reality of mental illness stigma. I offer clients impactful and eye-opening keynote lectures as well as our innovative stigmaZERO Workplace Program, which includes a diagnostic of all existing policies and programs related to mental illness. This comprehensive program also involves interactive workshops tailored specifically to senior leadership, management and employees.
The stigmaZERO Workpace Program also has a top-down methodology which has been carefully designed to ensure maximum impact. In order for workshops with employees to be effective, they must know their managers and senior leadership are already committed to a stigmaZERO workplace.
If you would like to learn more about how our unique services can create real, lasting impact on your company’s ability to manage mental illness and stigma, contact me for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit my website at www.stigmazero.com.
Founder & Stigma Expert
Our vision is to work towards a future without stigma, and our mission is to help employers eliminate stigma in the workplace. We deliver on this mission by offering an accessible, proven program that combines personal experience with actionable guidelines to enable a positive culture change around mental illness.
stigmaZERO was founded in 2014 by Jason Finucan, who has positively impacted thousands of individuals and helped companies by sharing his expertise on mental illness and stigma.
As an active member of CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Speakers) and GFS (Global Federation of Speakers), Jason is an experienced and dynamic speaker with the ability to profoundly impact audiences.