Join HR Florida: Pledge to be Stigma Free
You notice that an employee is having trouble at work. Maybe that person is taking many unexplained breaks and calling in sick to work frequently. They seem distracted, forgetful, and worried. As an HR professional, you know that something is going on that will start to impact the employees work performance, if it hasn’t already. But what can you do to help the employee?
Every year 1 in 5 Americans experiences a mental illness; these are our co-workers, employees, and friends. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and HR Florida is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Florida to bring awareness to the impact of mental health issues in the workplace and how organizations can work towards having a stigma free workplace. Stigma Free Florida is a campaign designed to change attitudes within workplaces regarding mental health and individuals with mental illness. With the help of human resources professionals and business leaders around the state, we can make a difference for those with mental illness and create more inclusive and supportive workplaces.
Changing the stigma around mental illness requires thinking about mental illness no differently than other illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. Science has shown that mental illnesses are treatable. Early intervention is critical to improved recovery time; however, many individuals are afraid to seek treatment for fear of being stigmatized, labeled, and potentially shunned. Since most Americans have health insurance coverage through their employers, ensuring that employees have adequate mental health coverage and are aware of their benefits can encourage more employees with mental illness to seek treatment; access to treatment and recovery supports that have proven effective can speed the individual’s recovery and minimize any harmful symptoms. Having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is another benefit that can help employees who need assistance dealing with their own mental health, or the mental health issues of a loved one.
By signing the Stigma Free Florida pledge, businesses can show their support to reduce the stigma of mental illness and bring greater awareness of mental health to their organizations. What can employers do:
- Personal Leadership: Educate organization leaders and managers in understanding mental illness and best practices in the workplace.
- Communication: Communicate to employees the important of recognizing mental health challenges in the workplace, encourage employees to withhold judgement against individuals struggling with a mental illness, and express the need to move beyond the stigma.
- Information: Partner with NAMI Florida or one of its affiliates to provide educational information to employees or bring a presentation such as NAMI’s “In Our Own Voice” into the workplace to further understanding and empathy about mental illness.
- Stigma Free Workplace: Encourage open dialogue among employees about mental illness, starting by distributing and posting educational materials for employees and managers.
- Health Benefits: Examine employee health and wellness initiatives to ensure availability of effective benefits for mental illness and addiction.
- Employee Assistance: Strongly consider an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or ensure the existing program is welcoming to all with mental health issues and effective in providing assistance to them.
- Public Awareness: Participate with NAMI Florida through linked websites and media awareness in educating the public about how to move beyond stigma, where possible.
Mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability in America, impacting productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, and worker safety. HR professionals and business leaders can make a huge impact in their organization and the health of the workers by reducing stigma associated with mental illness and ensuring health benefits and employee assistance programs provide appropriate coverage.
Join HR Florida in supporting Stigma Free Florida!
Eve Sweeting is the Diversity Director for HR Florida. With over a decade of HR experience in private, public, and non-profit entities, Eve currently serves as an HR Analyst with a focus in performance management and workforce metrics. She believes that HR’s ability to impact the work environment for the better can benefit both workers and organizations.