Overcoming Stigma in the Workplace


We have come a long way in recent years in addressing stigma in the workplace. We’re more aware of checking in with our colleagues and employees and taking care of our own mental health.

However, there is more work to be done at all levels of our organisations. These 5 tips could assist your workplace to further reduce stigma:

1. Workplace leadership

Even though much has been done in Australian workplaces to recognise the importance of mental health, employers still need to re-examine their own attitudes towards those with a mental illness.

Ensure CEO, directors and senior managers are committed to inclusive employment policies and demonstrate leadership by being comfortable having conversations around mental health concerns in the workplace.

2. Inclusive policies and procedures

Develop policies that are inclusive of people with a mental illness. Policies need to extend the full breadth of employment, including the application and interview stages. The belief that living with a mental illness means a person cannot fulfill workplace requirements is one that perpetuates stigma.

3. Education and training

Provide resources and training for managers, supervisors and all employees so that their understanding of mental illness increases, confidence in talking about mental health improves and all workers learn from the example that mental health concerns are a normal part of working life.

4. Put mental health higher on the workplace agenda

Include mental health and mental illness as ongoing items on team meetings agendas, in OH&S meetings and at full staff meetings. Discussions can be around ensuring no excessive over-time is taken, checking on workloads, reminding employees that annual leave needs to be taken each year.

5. Respect people’s privacy

Ensure all employees are aware of their right to privacy around any health issue, including mental health issues. Demonstrate this by not disclosing any private information to anyone else in the organisation unless you have spoken with the employee about this.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could feel free to openly discuss mental health concerns at work?

If we all act on stigma the consequences could be incredibly productive, healthy and safe workplaces!

Sarah Earnshaw