It's Time to Get Rid of the Stigma

Posted on May 9, 2016.

May is National Mental Health Awareness month.  In August of 2012, I wrote a blog about reducing the stigma around mental health in the workplace. Then again in 2013, I wrote about mental health training in the workplace. I’d love to tell you that since that time, stigma has been reduced and suicide rates are down.

But none neither of these is true.  In fact, suicide rates are actually the highest they’ve been in 30 years.  It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. And while all mental health issues don’t result in suicide, 1 in 5 people suffer from some form of mental illness.   So unless you live alone in the wilderness, you or someone in know is suffering. What can you do to help?

As leaders, you have a responsibility to lead by example. First and foremost that means being publicly non-judgmental and verbally supportive of anyone who has gone public with his or her struggles. It doesn’t necessarily need to be someone you know.  When you hear about a famous person who admits to having depression or anxiety, tell people you admire the courage it took to come forward.

Look for training in your local community. Mental Health First Aid training is offered in many communities and it’s not just for Mental Health professionals.  It’s a great way to learn about red flags and how best to deal with various situations.

If you suspect someone you work with is suffering, let him or her know you are available to talk.  Work with your Employee Assistance Program or Human Resources to find the best way to offer help. Ignoring the problem just validates the stigma and can cause even further suffering. 

We all need to do our part to reduce stigma.  Suicide rates are increasing because people don’t feel there is any other way out.  We need to consistently provide advocacy, education and support for all types of mental illness.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, why not post something on your door, break room, or lobby with resources for anyone in need? And then maybe keep it there all year long.