Destigmatizing Mental Illness
It’s up to all of us.
Late last month, I was privileged to be part of a press conference that officially launched the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Massachusetts chapter’s CEOs Against Stigma campaign. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the stigma of mental illness in the workplace by educating employees, addressing misconceptions, and encouraging open, honest dialogue that acknowledges mental illness as a serious and treatable physiological condition.
Funded by a grant from the Attorney General’s Office, the campaign was created following a NAMI survey of Massachusetts voters to measure attitudes on mental illness. Results showed that while 92% of respondents would advise people with mental illness to tell family members and 76% would advise telling friends, only 27% would advise telling co-workers. Preconceived notions about mental illness discourage people from seeking help—and with one in five adults affected each year—untreated mental illness is the leading cause of workplace disability today.
Fortunately, initiatives like CEOs Against Stigma are working to effect change. Committed to bringing mental illness out of the shadows, company CEOs are pledging to provide a safe environment where employees can be comfortable discussing mental health conditions and have access to effective treatment options. This is by all accounts, a win-win situation—leading to both improved employee health and increased productivity.
Eliminating stigma at work and integrating mental health conversation into our daily lives is an important step toward recognizing mental health conditions as medical conditions that need to be treated as such. With federal regulations helping to insure parity between treatment for physical and mental health conditions, bringing down the barriers that discourage treatment is more important than ever. Thankfully, high profile figures like former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, actors Carrie Fisher and Jared Padalecki, former NFL player Keith O’Neil, and many others are sharing their own experiences with mental illness—building awareness and reminding us that mental illness does not discriminate, and that with treatment, it’s possible to live a healthy, happy, and productive life.
As part of our own mission, South Shore Mental Health is committed to destigmatizing mental illness by sharing our work with friends, visitors, and neighbors throughout the region. Through the eyes of SSMH’s clinical team and clients, our Building Hope, Changing Lives (BHCL) information sessions offer businesses and organizations the opportunity to learn more about the programs and services we provide. Witness to both struggles and successes, participants gain a better understanding of what it means to live with a mental illness before, during, and after treatment. To schedule a Building Hope, Changing Lives session at your company or organization, please contact Margaret Carr.
SSMH’s Mental Health First Aid instructors are also working hard in the community to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness. Available to conduct Mental Health First Aid training, these dedicated clinicians provide organizations with knowledge on the specifics of various mental illnesses, along with action plans for reaching out to people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Contact Kathleen Bambrick to learn more about training for your organization.
I’m proud to be among the first 25 executives to take NAMI’s CEOs Against Stigma pledge, but you don’t have to be a CEO to help fight the stigma. Whether at home, work, school, or at leisure, we’re surrounded by opportunities to advocate for those living with mental illness. We know that treatment works. Let’s continue to spread the word, educate those around us, and put an end to the stigma that discourages so many from seeking the help they deserve.
South Shore Mental Health