Overcoming the stigma attached to mental health

Many can’t see the benefit of speaking up.

Source: Most people think there is a stigma attached to mental health at work – Business Insider

I’m going to keep this one fairly short because a) this is an area where advice is best left to experts, and b) there’s plenty of external reading to be done. Please, pay attention to the links we are including here.

So, why write anything at all? Because I am being constantly reminded that a lot of people have a negative attitude toward mental health. For me, personally, I grew up with my mother’s mental health issues. Then, my former wife had severe mental health issues. Over the years, large numbers of people I’ve known have wrestled with some form of mental health issue, ranging in severity from mild anxiety to severe depression and suicide attempts.

What is bothersome, though, is the degree to which people still look negatively upon those with mental health challenges. A close friend recently found herself facing one of those challenges and though she could admit there is a problem, convincing her to get help for that problem was difficult. Adding to that situation was fear of losing a job and making sure there was sufficient childcare while she is getting treatment. It’s not easy. The stigma we have, not only in the US but largely around the world, is stifling.

On one hand, there is some indication that the stigma is falling away. At least, there are some who are trying to help reduce it to the degree they can. Back in July, Madalyn Parker, a web developer, sent a message to her team, letting them know she was taking a couple of days off to attend to her mental health. The resulting exchange with her CEO, which she published on Twitter, went viral.

I agree with Ben Congleton that every corporation should make attending to one’s mental health as normal as attending to one’s physical health. This really should be a no-brainer. Mental health issues are the number one cause of lost productivity and the number two cause of employee absenteeism. If we don’t treat those issues, we lose people, we lose ideas, we lose productivity, we lose creativity, and yes, we lose revenue. One would think, given the level of greed amongst corporations, they’d want to attend to mental health issues for the cost factor alone.

Unfortunately, for every story such as Madalyn’s, there are stories like that of Miwa Sado, a Japanese reporter who died of congestive heart failure four years ago. Her death is just now, within the past week, becoming an issue after her former employer, NKM, revealed that the young woman’s death was caused by severe overwork. How severe? Try 159 hours of overtime in one month. This poor child died while working with her cell phone still clutched in her hand. She was only 31 years old.

But wait, isn’t that a physical health issue? In part, yes, but it was a mental health issue before it became a physical health issue. Anxiety over meeting job requirements is possibly one of the most frequent sources of anxiety in the world. Leaving that anxiety untreated results in situations like Ms. Sado’s.

Then, Business Insider publishes the article linked at the top of this article. 85% of people still feel a stigma attached to mental health issues. That stigma keeps us from even looking for help.

Dudes, life is stressful. No matter what your job is, no matter how you spend your day, there’s always someone storming into your domicile, beating you up (hopefully just metaphorically) and pissing on your rug (again, metaphorically). While being zen and meditating and smoking a fat one may help one chill, we gotta make sure we take the time to actually do those things. And when the problem is severe, and I know it is for a lot of folks, ya’ gotta find help from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. A professional. A good one.

Admitting that we have mental health issues doesn’t mean we’re crazy. It’s not all in our heads. It’s not something we can just “get over.” If someone says any of those things to you, you have my permission to take the following action:

themental health stigma

photo credit: charles i. letbetter

Dudes, take some time off. If you’re the boss, make sure your employees get the time they need as well. There are companies such as Sanctus who can help corporations and their employees. You’re not being lazy. You’re not being a slacker.

Taking care of our mental health isn’t a bad thing. This is how we abide.

Abide in Peace,
The Old Man

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