Mental health stigma arises from the negative attitudes and actions towards someone who is struggling with their mental wellness. It can lead to feelings of shame and hopelessness. Stigma is one of the main reasons that a person may not choose to seek help, which could then worsen their condition. Although mental health is discussed more openly now than in the past, mental health stigma continues to exist in many workplaces.
How could mental health stigma at work affect a person?
- They may be fearful that disclosing a mental health issue will impact their professional reputation, relationships with coworkers, and/or job security.
- They may have negative interactions at work and experience acts of discrimination.
- They may hide their symptoms and struggle through work tasks.
- They may turn to using substances to help them cope.
- They may choose to not express their needs to their coworkers or their supervisor, therefore not getting potentially helpful support that could enable them to thrive.
How could mental health stigma at work affect an organization?
- Stigma could influence coworkers to question that a mental health illness is valid and/or use language that attaches hurtful labels.
- The workplace may notice:
- increased absenteeism
- decreased productivity
- lower staff engagement
- lower job satisfaction
- employee retention issues
- challenges putting a psychological health and safety program in place.
Disrupting stigma in the workplace requires a sustained effort over time to shift the culture. We all have a role to play in breaking down the barriers that stigma creates. Our words and actions matter to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
Substance use and stigma in the workplace
Mental health and substance use are closely intertwined. The workplace can be an important place for a person to get support with a substance use issue. As mentioned above, reducing the stigma associated with a mental health concern, including substance use, is important for an employee to feel comfortable seeking help. Learn more about substance use and stigma on the Stop Stigma page.
- Is substance use affecting your life? Visit the Mental Health Support page for helpful service providers.
TBDHU offers various free resources to promote positive mental wellness in the workplace. This includes a "Stand Up to Stigma" bulletin board kit. Check out all of the available resources on the SuperiorMentalWellnessAtWork page.
- Get Real Photovoice anti-stigma in the workplace campaign
- Addressing Stigma: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- Recognizing and Addressing Stigma at Work: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
- Checklist for Workplace Policies on Substance Use Stigma: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Stigma