I’m glad to see companies seeing this as an issue for themselves, and not just an “outside of work” thing. On the other hand, when we talk about it in these terms, I think I can see part of the reason that there is still so much stigma attached to the idea of getting help for mental health issues.
“A study from The Hartford found that 70 percent of U.S. employers now recognize that employee mental health is a significant workplace issue, up from 59 percent in June 2020. In addition, 31 percent said the strain on employee mental health is having a severe or significant financial impact on their company—an 11-point increase from March 2020
However, 72 percent of employers said the stigma associated with mental illness prevents workers from seeking help, according to The Hartford’s 2021 Future of Benefits Study, which polled U.S. workers and human resource benefit decision-makers.”
The thing about stigma is that it’s not always about the fear of direct personal attack. It’s the fear of being thought of as “less than”. As much as it’s important to talk about the impact mental health issues may be having on the work being done by your employees if that’s all you ever talk about, the impact on your bottom line, then it’s going to be easy for someone who is struggling a bit, to assume that you now see them as “less than”, because they are having a positive impact on that bottom line “less than” other employees might be.
The people you hire are not numbers to plug into your financial statements. They are real, live, human beings, with complicated lives outside of the 9-5. Leading a company is leading those people, and leading those people is making sure they have what they need to be successful in the company. Sometimes, that’s going to be given support when it comes to a mental health issue, the same way you’d support someone with a physical injury, or give grace to someone grieving a loss, without mentioning the impact it’s having on your bottom line. There’s no stigma attached to someone being a little less productive after a death on their family, or after a physical injury, and maybe that’s because no one is talking about the impact on productivity? Why is it that companies who are normally so accepting of those limitations need to be convinced that the mental health of their employees impacts the companies success instead of being the same leader they are to employees dealing with other areas where they might struggle?
The stigma is real, and it’s not gone away in the workplace at all. We do a better job of adding some benefits and programs around mental health than we used to, but I’m not always sure we do a great job at not making people who use them, feel like they are seen as “less than”. If we aren’t willing to do that, those programs will continue to go unused, and your people will continue to struggle.