Overcoming Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace & Supporting Employees
By: Benefits by Design | Tuesday January 11, 2022Updated : Thursday October 6, 2022
Canada’s mental health crisis has worsened under the COVID-19 pandemic, which is something experts believe Canadians and their employers will need to deal with for many years to come. During these times, working Canadians will be looking to their employers’ benefits plans for solutions.
To support Canadians and equip workplaces with the resources and tools they need to safeguard their mental health, we need to have a frank conversation about mental health stigma.
Mental Health Stigma
Despite the growing mental health crisis in Canada, stigma around mental health remains strong. This stigma creates an uphill battle and leads to negative outcomes and inaccurate perceptions.
One of the most common mental health stigmas is that mental health problems are not common, or that those struggling simply need to “try harder”. In truth, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental health challenges in a year. Of those, only 1 in 3 seek treatment or aid, further contributing to their isolation.
Mental Illness Awareness and the Overall Mental Health of Canadians
Mental Health Stigma is Harmful
Not only is mental health stigma pervasive within Canada, it is also quite harmful to overall mental health efforts. Mental health stigma can lead to:
- A reluctance in seeking help or treatment
- Lack of understanding by family, friends, and co-workers
- Fewer opportunities for work, school, or social activities
- Increased or worsened symptoms and stresses
- Social isolation
Employers who are serious about protecting and supporting employees’ mental health will need to be able to recognize its harmful effects, but also work to lessen mental health stigma within their workplace.
How Employers Can Combat Mental Health Stigma
- Normalize mental health days. One of the most common stigmas is that having a problem is a cause for shame or that it’s a sign of weakness. Providing Personal Time Off (PTO) and actively encouraging employees to use it for mental health days is an excellent first step to combating the stigma around mental health.
- Offer mental health support services. Employers will want to ensure that they are offering support and services to employees through options like an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) or Mental Health Benefit.
- Encourage regular employee check-ins. This is particularly important in the world of remote work! Managers and employees who correspond frequently have more opportunities to discuss workloads and share concerns.
- Provide training for managers and supervisors. Train managers and supervisors to recognize signs of stress or overwork, manage workloads, and promote work-life balance.
- Share resources and information with employees. There are many free resources available for employers and employees, so make an effort to share them. The more people know about mental health, the less inaccuracies and stigmas that will persist.
- Encourage work-life balance. Maintaining a proper work-life balance is important in a workplace devoted to supporting employee mental health.
- Watch your language! The way we talk about mental health is changing, and it is important that the proper language is used within your workplace. For example, Green Shield Canada (GSC) recently changed the ‘Psychology’ benefit under their Extended Health Care (EHC) coverage to ‘Mental Health Benefit’, as it more accurately describes the services delivered.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
One of the most impactful things employers can do to support employees’ mental health is offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs offer support, resources, and service to employees struggling with life’s challenges through professional counselling, and more.