Raising awareness and breaking the stigma to manage absence

Healthy You - raising awareness breaking the stigma to manage absence

Published: 14 May 2015

A big part of looking after your employees is putting supportive measures in place to help with not only their physical health, but also their mental health and wellbeing. However, while you can introduce various services and policies, these will have a better chance of success if you help to break the stigma that surrounds mental ill health.

According to the anti-stigma campaign 'Time to Change', stigma is when we make assumptions about how mental health problems will affect someone's behaviour, making it more likely that they will be singled out, or labelled as different, dangerous or strange.1

Stigma occurs through a combination of discrimination (behaviour), ignorance (a lack of knowledge) and prejudice (attitude), and can affect not just those employees that have mental ill health, but the workforce as a whole.

If stigma is present within the workplace it can lead to employers failing to treat mental illness as seriously as physical illness. This stigma can also lead to some managers falling into the trap of believing that an employee suffering with a mental health problem will not be able to do their job.

Of course, this simply isn't true. More often than not employees who experience mental ill health are able to fully recover, or can manage their mental state and live with it.

Such stigma surrounding mental ill health can actually be more damaging to an employee, making it harder to recover. It can reinforce stereotypes about mental illness among the wider public, preventing employees from seeking help when they need it.

Shockingly, nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives.2 So it is essential to remove such stigma from your working environment if you are to encourage employees to use your support network, and thus, reduce absence.

The key to breaking the stigma is to address your workplace's perceptions  of mental ill health and help employees understand more about the topic. By educating your workforce you can encourage a culture of visibility, removing any negative stereotypes that may be lurking.

In turn, this can help those employees with mental ill health to feel more comfortable and make use of the support you have in place.

Anyone can have mental ill health; it's a part of life. Recognising this and supporting your employees will set a precedent for your whole organisation to follow. It can encourage those employees who need help to seek it at work, along with having a positive impact on absence rates.

Find out more about mental health and stigma.

Mental Health Awareness Week helps to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues to educate the wider public and break the stigma. Simplyhealth is supporting this awareness drive throughout May. Learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week.


1. http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/youngpeople/what-stigma

2. http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a- z/S/stigma-discrimination/

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