A Completely Non-Scientific View of Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace
A little over a week ago, I came clean on my other blog, and social media. I admitted that I’m just really not OK.
If you’ve read the post, then you also know that when I mention mental health stigma, I’m not really talking about what happened with my workplace. No, that was exactly what I would want to happen. But, what I noticed was what happened kind of out in public, after the fact.
So, what happened? I wrote the blog post and shared it with my readers over there. It got posted to Facebook on the page for that site, and the Twitter account for that site, etc. It got some feedback, some folks who felt the same, who were also struggling, or just offered a reminder to do some self-care, etc. It was all very appreciated, and again, you would expect that audience to be fairly comfortable acknowledging mental health struggles.
Then, I considered what I was doing, versus what I preach. I tell people all the time that it’s OK to not be OK, it’s OK to need help, or to take care of yourself even if it means not doing something everyone else is doing etc. Yet, here I was admitting that I was also, but hiding it in a place where I knew folks who read it were people who’d already made a choice to read about the topic, people who likely know that what I was doing was OK. I, however, needed to be more honest with people in my life who aren’t regular readers of that blog who still need to know that if they are struggling as well, they aren’t alone, and it’s OK. So, I took the entire text of the post, and shared it on my personal Facebook profile.
The response there was more than I expected. There were numerous folks who either commented, or sent me a message privately. Turns out, there are a lot of people I know personally, who that post resonated with. People who felt the same, people who had felt the same and didn’t talk about it, people who just wanted to support me, etc.
Oh, in the interest of walking the walk in the workplace, I also shared the post on LinkedIn. Where it go almost no response at all. (1 reaction, no comments, no messages).
Why the disconnect? Yes, generally speaking, my FB contacts are closer friends, than my LI contacts. On the other hand, I have 3 times as many contacts on LinkedIn. I expected, going in, that a great number of people who I am really just acquainted with professionally might not react at all, but I was still a bit surprised that it just seemed to fly right by most people, and it got me thinking. What’s so different about the two platforms when it comes to talking about mental health?
Yes, I get it. Facebook is personal, and LinkedIn is professional. God knows I’ve seen enough people complaining about too many people putting personal stuff on a professional site. I know.
On the other hand, mental health IS a professional issue. It’s a workplace issue, it impacts employment, it impacts work-life balance issues, it’s an important part of HR and Management, and it’s not going to magically go away if we ignore it long enough. Quite the opposite. It’s going to continue being an issue for people you work with, all across your organization, and it’s going to continue to cause productivity issues as people struggle, and need to take time off, or potentially leave your organization for their own mental health benefit.
As I said in the title, I don’t believe this is scientific proof that there’s a stigma about discussing mental health in professional circles. On the other hand, nothing about what happened convinces me that there isn’t still a very strong stigma associate with it. After all, if someone had commented, or admitted they struggled too, we’d all see where the work, and maybe even coworkers would see it, gasp! (Obviously, I made the decision to share it anyway. That was my choice.)
As long as that stigma exists, people we all know are going to struggle silently, and potentially fatally, when a little support would go so far.
But yeah, I know. Supporting people struggling with mental health is a personal thing, it has no place in a professional environment, right?
Update: within a few days of posting this, there suddenly were some comments and reactions on the LinkedIn post. I don’t think that’s because people read this and went looking for it, rather that there is some hope of having these conversations, even in the professional spaces.
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