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It’s Time to Break the Silence of Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace

office desk in the sunlight

We battled the pandemic, are still battling the pandemic after effects and there are multiple wars and and conflicts happening around the world. The world is increasingly complex and not just that, us as humans are complex. 

There’s a hardline historical viewpoint of leaving your personal life at the office door - and to an extent you should - but we’re also human. We have emotions. We experience break ups, divorce, stress, anxiety, depression. 

The average person has more than 400 emotional experiences every day. The challenge internally is that our brains are hard-wired to give emotions the upper hand over logic and rational thought. So it’s only natural and human of us to feel this at work.

The avoidance, and retribution, that comes from discussing your personal life or mental health in the workplace has created a culture where you have Millennials and Boomers ashamed to talk about mental health and are suffering in silence because it’s how they’ve been taught. And Gen-Z is empowered to discuss openly because they should - and rightfully so. But let's face it, the stigma should no longer be there. Why should mental health be a problem when 99% of the population feel or experience it in some way - directly or indirectly? Why should we have anxiety-inducing and stress-driven workplaces when on paper, it’s a culture for people to develop and thrive?

If you haven’t experienced the trauma of mental health directly, then you might have a partner, close friend or family member that has been impacted - and while you’re there for them, it has an impact on you too. Nobody talks about this enough. The knock on effect can be just as challenging.

We can no longer have workplaces where mental health is a shunned topic. And if it is, then you shouldn’t work there. It’s basic hygiene for a company to look after the mental wellbeing of their staff - after all they want productivity and performance right?!

The sheer number of job ads that cite ‘a fast paced environment’ and ‘we’re a family’ should be a huge red flag. The number of companies that state openly, in the media and directly to employees, that they ‘look after their staff’, but don’t in real life, is worrying. And the challenge is you don’t often realise until you’ve arrived, bedded in, and need support.

Your manager is not your parent. Nor should they be. But we need to be in a position where if you need support at work, it’s there. You need to be given the space and time to breathe, heal, and ultimately come back stronger.

We need to dispel the myth of talking openly about mental health in the workplace. Talk about it openly, in a safe space with a peer or senior you trust. The only way to break the barrier is through talking and encouraging action. 

If there’s not a mental health policy in place, champion it. If you’re struggling, ask for help. If you don’t believe enough is being done overall, then encourage it and fight for change. Use your voice as a force for good.


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