How Employers Can Address Mental Health Stigma Globally

Over the last several years, employee well-being has been a high priority for companies around the world. With one in four people suffering from mental health issues, emotional well-being has become a top focus.

Over the last several years, employee well-being has been a high priority for companies around the world. With one in four people suffering from mental health issues, emotional well-being has become a top focus. A recent survey of 3,000 employees in the United Kingdom found that 97% feel that their employer is responsible for supporting an employee’s mental health and well-being.1 Employers understand that healthier employees are more committed to their organization’s goals and perform better on the job.

Poor mental well-being can drastically impede an employee’s level of productivity at work. However, with the right resources and support, these same individuals can thrive at work and in their personal lives. One of the biggest challenges and barriers to treatment for a person with mental illness is the associated stigma. Stigma fuels the negative perception of mental illness as well as the silence and suffering that a person may feel.

How can employers help fight stigma and work to break the silence to confront mental health? For several employers their strategy includes joining local country campaigns.

Tackle your feelings, a Mental Well-being Campaign

One global financial institution’s offices in Ireland joined Tackle Your Feelings, a three-year mental well-being campaign launched in 2016 by Rugby Players Ireland in partnership with Zurich.2 Funded by the Z Zurich Foundation, the campaign uses rugby to spark widespread change in how people think and act toward their personal mental health. The campaign features professional rugby players sharing their stories about mental well-being challenges and the strategies they used to overcome them. It also includes an app that can be downloaded for users.

Tackle Your Feelings aims to:

  • break down stigma around mental and emotional well-being;
  • change behaviors and equip people with tools and techniques to improve their mental well-being; and
  • create campaign champions within communities.

Since its launch in Ireland, the campaign website was accessed in over 130 countries and the app was downloaded in 35 countries. More impressively, the campaign’s launch has helped ignite similar campaigns, including the English Rugby Players’ Association ‘Lift the Weight’ campaign; New Zealand Rugby’s ‘HeadFirst’ campaign; and ‘Program MindFIT’, a partnership between Zurich Australia, the Australian Football League Players’ Association and the Australian Football League Coaches’ Association.

This is Me, a Mental Well-being Campaign

Several global companies have joined This is Me, a campaign in the United Kingdom.3 Initiated under London’s Lord Mayor's 2016 Power of Diversity program, the campaign partners with Barclays, Business Healthy, City Mental Health Alliance and Mind to encourage companies to break the stigma associated with mental illness. The campaign encourages individuals to talk about their mental health challenges and share their personal stories. It has been wildly successful for some organizations, including one financial institution with operations in the U.K. For this company, the campaign helped lay the groundwork for its global mental well-being initiative. One year after the company’s launch of This is Me, the initiative has since been adapted to meet nuances and cultural norms across various geographies outside the U.K.

This is Me in the U.K. and Tackle your Feelings in Ireland are just two examples of the local initiatives that have succeeded in breaking down the stigma around mental health.

] How Can Employers Address Mental Health Stigma?

  • Learn what local initiatives and campaigns exist in country and how they can become part of your overall emotional well-being strategy.
  • Get local and organizational leaders involved. Support from the top goes a long way towards making a program successful.
  • Utilize local champions to help spread the word.
  • Harness the power of storytelling. Storytelling helps make an emotional connection that people relate to. Companies have had great success with videos and testimonials that share employees’ personal stories with mental health issues.
  • Identify local advocacy groups and work together to spread the importance of mental well-being that support your organization’s strategy.
  • Partner with your employee assistance program or health plan to cross-promote resources and ensure employees are aware of available programs.
  • Leverage World Mental Health Day and build your organization’s communication plan to align with it. Doing this helps create synergy and a reason for the launch of your campaign.

Image Source: Time to Change U.K.

  1. Employee Benefits. Mental health seen as employer’s responsibility by 97% of staff. https://employeebenefits.co.uk/mental-health-responsibility-97/. Accessed November 1, 2019.
  2. Tackle Your Feelings. Take control of your mental wellbeing. https://www.tackleyourfeelings.com. Accessed November 1, 2019.
  3. This is Me. https://www.thelordmayorsappeal.org/a-healthy-city/this-is-me/. Accessed November 1, 2019.
  4. Time to Change. https://www.time-to-change.org.uk. Accessed November 1, 2019.

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