How can you help your company better address mental health?

When my grandparents were still alive, they used to tell me the most amazing stories. One that stuck is a story about how they talked about Cancer, the Big C. They talked about the “stigma of cancer”.There were no treatments; cancer was an automatic death penalty, and as a result, nobody talked about it. If you were diagnosed, you wouldn’t tell your friends or your boss, and sometimes wouldn’t tell your family. You would just say “I’m

not feeling well” or “I need to take some time” or “things just aren’t right”. Sound familiar? To me, this stigma around cancer sounded eerily similar to the stigma we have with mental illness. Thankfully, cancer treatments have since evolved. They save thousands of lives everyday and people talk about their cancer diagnosis without shame. In fact, many people now take great pride in telling their cancer survivor story. Cancer has evolved out of the “awareness era” and has been for many years in the “lets fix it era”.

What about mental health stigma?

This week, half of a million Canadians will be off of work because of long or short term disability due to a mental illness. This is a shocking statistic that everyone now knows. Every CEO in North America knows that mental health is enormously expensive to their businesses. Every CEO in North America has seen the anti-stigma campaigns. The awareness of mental health stigma is North America has essentially dissolved, with very few exceptions. In North America, due to some exceptional work and continued presence of education campaigns, we are getting out of the “awareness era” of mental health, and are now embarking on the “let’s fix it era”. It is now, at this transition point, that companies are failing to address mental health and performance. What proof do I have of this statement? For starters, try this simple exercise.

Step one:

Have something horrible happen to you, something tragic, something debilitating, something that prevents you from being able to attend and perform at work consistently

Step two:

Try and find the mental health ‘resources’ available through your company

Step Three:

Reverse this horrible life event and continue reading this article.

What you will have discovered through this twisted simple exercise is that your company lacks the mental health resources that you need. You will also discover that “resources” has come to mean a plethora of things from paper pamphlets, to handouts and dry government driven documents, or a video of a long faced psychiatrist telling you the signs of depression, and a few sessions with a therapist, to simply nothing at all. What you will most likely find is a paucity of useful tools and practical advice from individuals who have training in mental health and performance. This is where we are at with “mental health in the workplace”; a lot of words like “stigma” “support” and “resources” being bandied about, with few tangible things that help you perform better and stay well. We are in an era that we know that mental health is real, that there are treatments available that do work. We are in an era where prevention can happen and that you deserve to know the skills of performing your best and stay well.

Don’t be the CEO that is stuck in the Awareness Era of Mental health and performance. Move now and do something about it.

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