Mentally ill people are challenged twice.
Rachel Arkle recently published a blog on HR review emphasising five things you need to understand about mental health: what mental health means for your people, who is at risk, what to do about it, how to communicate, and understand mental health is a practice.
Why is it important for you as an employer - and individual - to understand mental health?
One reason is to fight stigma that is frequently attached to the mental health status of individuals. Public stigma is defined as a social process during which individuals with a certain characteristic are being stereotyped, excluded, rejected and devalued . Compared to people with physical injuries, mentally ill suffer from an illness that dictates how they are perceived by society .
According to the Mental Health Foundation nine out of ten people with a mental illness report to experience stigma , which can have an additional impact on an their mental health. Research has found mentally ill are often challenged twice; first by their illness and again when they are stigmatised .
The concept of stigma is often the result of a lack of understanding, misinformation or misconceptions about mental illness in society, which can lead to a separation between “us” and the stigmatised “them” . “Where there is neglect, there is little or no understanding. Where there is no understanding, there is neglect”, says the World Health Organisation .
Due to the high prevalence of mental illnesses among working populations it is fundamental to implement mental health promotion, preventative actions and interventions particularly at the workplace . It is important “we” understand mental health in favour of our colleagues who experience (symptoms of) a mental illness. As we further our understanding of mental health, we can help create a just and equitable workplace and eliminate stigma.
There are three things we need to do as employer, colleague and individual: open up to mental health, meet people with a mental illness, and interact with them. Direct contact to people with mental illnesses is known as an effective strategy to challenge stereotypes and to fight stigma . As we open up to those people who suffer from a mental illness, we are able to see their lives and suffering from a different perspective. Meeting and interacting with these people can change the way we perceive mental illnesses and our negative attitude against it. . In the workplace, employers and colleagues’ understanding about mental health is necessary to facilitate affected people to feel included rather than stigmatised. I believe that supportive behaviour and encouragement shows a form of acceptance and helps mentally ill to believe in them; believe they can be stronger than their illness; believe they can cope well with their illness or even go back to a stage prior to their illness.
Written by Lena Schnitzler
Lena is an international health scientist (BSc, MSc) with a specialisation in Prevention & Public Health. Over the course of her studies, Lena gained international experience working at academic research institutes in Sydney and Toronto. She recently conducted a study examining the management of mental health conditions in the context of Workers’ Compensation in Canada. She is passionate about promoting wellbeing and mental health worldwide. References
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