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This World Mental Health Day, consider how you can reduce stigma at work




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When many of us think of someone with a mental health condition, we think of a homeless or the culprit of a shootout, for the most part. In the media, we think the quirky, creative celebrity who sometimes struggles but can take a break between projects, but how many of us think of the powerful professional who succeeds in work, but occasionally relapses like depression or anxiety, similar to someone with Chronic Asthma?

This high-performing professional is I. And it's most likely one of your colleagues.

We're actually the much more accurate and common profile of someone who is managing a mental health condition or diabetes-combined.Up to 80% of Americans experience a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives, whether they know it or not. For some it will be chronic and for others it will be temporary ̵

1; perhaps in response to the loss of a job or a loved one. We all move back and forth in the spectrum of mental well-being throughout our lives. Given the massive prevalence, this means that mental health affects every conference call, every team, and every meeting.

Is that a surprise? If so, it's probably because we can hide very well. There are many of us who excel in top companies around the world, hiding what it means to be in mental health because of the still deep-rooted stigma.

My nonprofit organization, Mind Share Partners, has created this new video to give people an insight into working life, what it feels like to navigate a mental illness day. While this person is initially in distress to give us a sense of their inner experience, many people are just too effective to ensure that their conditions remain invisible until they are improved.

More than two-thirds of employees hide their mental health problems from their employees. The burden of doing so may even be more challenging than the condition itself. According to a British study by Deloitte 95% of people who have been exposed to stressful situations gave another reason as a headache or stomach problem

I know a lot of our tricks to stay hidden all too well. It means we go to the doctor or dentist when we actually go to our therapist (or worse, to our psychiatrist). It explains that we are dealing with some personal issues when we have reached a difficult phase and our performance is not at the same level. In my case, I later found out that this caused a manager to think that I had marital problems and a peer who thought I had a miscarriage. Although none of these assumptions were true, both would be socially acceptable alternatives to what was actually going on. That speaks volumes.

So why do we do that, why do we go so far as to interfere and hide our mental states? That can easily be answered in one word: stigma.

Oxford Dictionaries defines stigma as "a sign of shame associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person." Synonyms include "shame … [and] shame." Nobody wants to be this on the receiver side, so it comes to a chain reaction. Many people do not realize that they actually have mental health, even for themselves, because they are afraid of the label. They are never diagnosed or they can not get treatment if they do. Eight out of ten workers with a mental health condition state that shame and stigma prevent them from seeking treatment, which can usually be very effective. They hide their condition at work, as we have discussed, and that isolation and suffering in silence only make things worse. Not to mention human suffering, all of which results in a less ideal work environment that affects the productivity, commitment of the teams and employees.

What can we do about the stigma of a workplace lens? As with countering other negative stereotypes that can lead to discrimination, the first step is to recognize that it exists and that we all probably have some bias, whether conscious or unconscious. We can then catch and reshape ourselves when it starts to surface. Everyone can do their part to ensure that the mental health problems are normal and in the office in order. Especially if you are a manager or a leader, be vulnerable and share your own challenges, whether mental or not. All this is tough, but critical, work.

Despite starting a mental health work nonprofit job, I too still have self stigmatization about my own anxiety disorder. The negative perception is anchored in our culture. But the bright point is that we are at a clear turning point. More and more people are opening up about their own mental health – actors, athletes and singers, among others. Now, the workplace must also lead to a real cultural change.

And if you are this powerful professional, then you know that you are not alone. And you are definitely not less than.

Mind Share Partner

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When many of us think of someone with a mental health condition, we think of a homeless or the culprit of a shootout, much of it to the media. On the other hand, we think of the quirky, creative celebrity who sometimes struggles, but can take a break between the projects. But how many of us think of the high performing professional who is successful at work but who occasionally has relapses like depression or anxiety similar to someone with chronic asthma?

I am this powerful professional. And it's most likely one of your colleagues too.

We are actually the much more accurate and common profile of someone managing a mental illness. In fact, mental illnesses are more common than cancer, heart disease or diabetes. Up to 80% of Americans will experience diagnosable mental health at some point in their lives, regardless of whether they know it or not. For some it will be chronic and for others it will be temporary – perhaps in response to the loss of a job or a loved one. We all move back and forth in the spectrum of mental well-being throughout our lives. Given the massive prevalence, this means that mental health affects every conference call, every team, and every meeting.

Is that a surprise? If so, it's probably because we can hide very well. There are many of us who excel in top companies around the world and hide because of the still deep-rooted stigma of having a mental state.

My nonprofit organization Mind Share Partners has created this new video A glimpse into what it's like to work and navigate a day with a mental illness. While this person is initially in distress to give us a sense of their inner experience, many people are just too effective to ensure that their conditions remain invisible until they are improved.

More than two-thirds of employees hide their mental health problems from their employees. The burden of doing so may even be more challenging than the condition itself. According to a British study by Deloitte 95% of people who have taken stress off have given a different one Reason for a head or stomach problem.

I know many of our tricks just to hide too well. It means we go to the doctor or dentist when we actually go to our therapist (or worse, to our psychiatrist). It explains that we are dealing with some personal issues when we have reached a difficult phase and our performance is not at the same level. In my case, I later found out that this caused a manager to think that I had marital problems and a peer who thought I had a miscarriage. Although none of these assumptions were true, both would be socially acceptable alternatives to what was actually going on. That speaks volumes.

So why do we do that, why do we go so far as to interfere and hide our mental states? That can easily be answered in one word: stigma.

Oxford Dictionaries defines stigma as "a sign of shame associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person." Synonyms include "shame … [and] shame." Nobody wants to be this on the receiver side, so it comes to a chain reaction. Many people do not realize that they actually have mental health, even for themselves, because they are afraid of the label. They are never diagnosed or they can not get treatment if they do. Eight out of ten workers with a mental health condition state that shame and stigma prevent them from seeking treatment, which can usually be very effective. They hide their condition at work, as we have discussed, and that isolation and suffering in silence only make things worse. Not to mention human suffering, all of which results in a less ideal work environment that affects the productivity, commitment of the teams and employees.

What can we do about the stigma of a workplace lens? As with countering other negative clichés that can lead to discrimination, the first step is to recognize that it exists and that we are likely to have some bias, whether conscious or unconscious. We can then catch and reshape ourselves when it starts to surface. Everyone can do their part to ensure that the mental health problems are normal and in the office in order. Especially if you are a manager or a leader, be vulnerable and share your own challenges, whether mental or not. All this is tough, but critical, work.

Despite starting a mental health work nonprofit job, I too still have self stigmatization about my own anxiety disorder. The negative perception is anchored in our culture. But the bright point is that we are at a clear turning point. More and more people are opening up about their own mental health – actors, athletes and singers, among others. Now, the workplace must also lead to a real cultural change.

And if you are this powerful professional, then you know that you are not alone. And you are definitely not less than.


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