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Stigma Free Workplace

 

Because Mental Health Matters in the Workplace

Febraury 24, 2020

 

One startling fact drives home the impact of mental illness in the workplace: Untreated mental health conditions in the US costs businesses nearly $17 billion in lost productivity.

That statistic is further supported by research showing that mental illness conditions are the leading cause of disability in the U.S.  Business owners know first-hand that an accumulation of sick days, absenteeism, unexpected time away from work to care for loved ones, doctor’s appointments and resulting workplace friction can ultimately lower the bottom line.

With an estimated 20 percent of Americans experiencing some form of mental illness, and the average delay between symptom onset and seeking treatment at 11 years, the problem is pervasive, yet invisible.  Employees who encounter mental illness in their lives are more likely to ignore and delay treatment, suffering quietly for years as a result of long held stigmas associated with mental health. In fact, statistics indicate that eight out of ten workers with a mental health condition say shame and stigma prevented them from seeking help initially.

NAMI Louisville is stepping into the workplace conversation with a new program designed to help employers and workplaces grappling with the impact of mental illness. The Stigma Free Workplace initiative, launched this year, aims to educate employers and staff about mental illness, offering everything from recognition tips to comprehensive training sessions that demystify mental illness. Removing the barriers of stigma and perceived shame, and creating access to treatment are the primary objectives of the initiative.

The Stigma Free Workplace initiative empowers employers to develop and retain experienced human capital while reducing costs associated with absenteeism and other factors related to mental health issues.  This is accomplished by assisting employers in creating diverse, compassionate work environments where mental health is acknowledged and accessibility to resources is prioritized. Employers can request a meeting with a NAMI Louisville representative to learn more.

The program is offered through four tier levels – based primarily on need and size of the organization.  Each training program is customized and tailored for the business’s specific needs. The nonprofit group requests a charitable donation, based on a sliding scale, to support the costs associated with classes and training sessions.

“The workplace is often a reflection of our society,” said Nancy Brooks, executive director of NAMI Louisville.  “And with that comes the challenge of navigating how people contend with certain stigmas and health issues they may not fully understand. We are collaborating with employers to reduce the stigma, educate employees and create a clear path to treatment for those who need it.”

With Stigma Free Workplace training, employers are empowered to help employees seek treatment and return to work relatively quickly – eliminating years of absences, doctor’s appointments and confusion among fellow workers. In doing so, productivity levels rise, as well as employee appreciation and morale.

“There are so many things employers do to ensure a business continues to run smoothly,” said Donna Pollard, project manager of the Stigma Free Workplace initiative. “If the building roof collapses, it gets replaced, or if machinery malfunctions, it gets repaired.  Employers need to see that employees themselves are a crucial resource – and investing in their well-being is the very definition of a ‘smart workplace’.”

The NAMI Louisville Stigma Free Workplace initiative is available to large and small employers in the Louisville region.  To learn more about the organization and this initiative, visit NAMILouisville.org or call 502-588-2008.

If employers and workers better understand the warning signs and realize that, much like any other medical condition, mental illness is a physical health condition of the brain, they might be motivated to create an environment where employees facing mental illness feel comfortable reaching out, asking for help and gaining resources.

 

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