Erasing the Workplace Stigma of Behavioral Health Conditions

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Although our culture has made great strides in recent years in understanding those who struggle with behavioral health conditions, these individuals often face huge challenges in the workplace. Imagine an employee who is suffering in silence with a condition such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or substance use issues and is struggling with feelings of shame, inadequacy, and worthlessness. Now imagine how much more that struggle is amplified when the employee has to hide those challenges and feelings from everyone at work in fear that he or she will be judged, rejected, or labeled.

As an adviser, you can make a big impact on the workplace success of employees who struggle with behavioral health conditions by helping employers understand their role in supporting them. Part of the key to that success lies in establishing the right accommodations; equally important is guiding your clients on how to foster a supportive workplace and creating a culture that’s accepting of employees with mental health and substance use issues.

Overcoming Stereotypes to Boost Employee Success

Shame and denial are intertwined with virtually every mental health and substance use condition, and they are reinforced by pervasive stigma and negative stereotypes. People with depression and anxiety are sometimes told that they need to “snap out of it” and are often seen as little more than their conditions, as if their struggles define who they are. Those negative interactions can lead to employees becoming distrustful and disengaged.

Employers should pay close attention to the effects of that negative feedback loop, as behavioral health conditions cost businesses hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs every year. Part of the challenge lies in the fact that less than half of American adults with a mental health condition and less than 20% of Americans with a substance use disorder receive appropriate treatment.

Creating the Right Conditions to Support Employees

There are several ways you can bring value to your clients as an adviser by helping them grow in this area. It is critical for employers to create a workplace for their employees that is safe and inclusive while also reducing the stigma around mental health and substance use issues. For one, there are great examples of anti-stigma campaigns available online that you can suggest to your clients. These include Make It OKBring Change to MindStigma Free, and Time to Change.

Second, you can help your clients make sure their behavioral health benefits are truly designed to support people coping with those conditions. Employer-sponsored benefits, by law, cover behavioral health treatment. However, it is up to companies themselves to verify that their coverage offers a reasonable network of contracted providers to make those benefits accessible to employees. To the extent possible, reducing the copayment for mental health and substance use treatment, or eliminating it altogether, helps remove the financial barriers that often deter people from seeking appropriate care […]

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Source: HR Daily Advisor

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