On January 25, Bell Canada hosted their 7th annual #BellLetsTalk day. In case you missed the viral initiative, Bell pledges to donate 5 cents for every tweet, text, Facebook post, share, snapchat, etc. with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk in Canada. This year, Bell set records and received over 131,705,010 interactions, and donated $6,585,250 to mental health initiatives and research in Canada. This is a wonderful day to open the conversation about the importance mental health awareness and support, and take steps towards squashing the stigma surrounding mental health.
#BellLetsTalk day comes around once a year in Canada and makes incredible contributions to mental health initiatives. We at Plasticity are fully behind mental health research, and know first-hand how important it is to work towards opening the dialogue about mental health in the workplace. Mental health is the leading cause of workplace disability in Canada, and one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime. Companies like Bell are doing a great job bringing awareness to the topic –but we think the conversation has died down since, and needs to stay open. What simple steps can we take to make sure that we are working towards the de-stigmatization of mental health in the workplace?
It’s important to recognize that mental health goes far beyond depression and anxiety. You, your coworkers, and managers may be using harmful words or phrases that could be contributing to the stigmatization of mental health at work. For example, describing your ultra-organizational tendencies as “OCD” may be affecting your peers at a deeper level than you intend. Even seemingly harmless words like “crazy person” can have a ripple effect. Keeping these on your radar will contribute towards a healthy environment where mental health sufferers feel free to open up and seek support at work. Challenge the stereotypes and talk about the myths and facts about mental health and work.
It’s equally as important to acknowledge that even if your colleagues aren’t personally dealing with mental health issues, it is likely that they know a parent, child, sibling, or friend that are. It may feel isolating and embarrassing for some to discuss the ways that mental health affects different individuals, so it is important to create an environment for those affected to feel safe, supported, and encouraged in the workplace.
For managers - familiarize your employees with the support available to them. Talk openly about company and external mental health resources that are available to employees. Empathy needs to take charge in the workplace and contribute to an accepting and supportive work atmosphere. Encourage employees to spend time with each other and facilitate a social support network. As well, implement an ‘open door’ policy, encouraging employees to come to you about mental health issues as easily as they may with anything else. Kindness, empathy and gratitude go a long way at work. A simple, “I’ve noticed you seem down… can I do anything to help you?” will contribute to lowering the numbers of those who suffer in silence at work.
We want to see work environments where taking a sick day for mental health is as normal as taking a sick day for the flu. #LetsTalk every day, to create a world where this is possible.
Here are some helpful and free mental health resources to check out: