This is part of a series on workforce mental health. To learn more about what stigma is and why it’s a problem, read our previous article.
Millions of Americans live with a mental health condition — but most aren’t getting the treatment they need. One of the reasons is stigma — negative stereotypes about mental illness that persist both in and out of the workplace. In fact, stigma is one of the main reasons why people delay treatment for 8 to 10 years on average — and many never get help at all.¹
Currently, fewer than 1 in 3 employees who struggle with a mental health condition get the help they need.² So it’s important to encourage more people to get help, because treatment works — reducing symptoms for 75% of those with common mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.³ Plus, when employees start to feel better about their mental health, they also feel better about their jobs and are more engaged at work. In fact, more than 80% of employees who receive treatment report improved job satisfaction.4
Taking steps to eliminate stigma at work can also foster employee loyalty and retention. In one recent poll, 57% of employees said they would be more loyal, more productive, and take less time off work if their employer proactively supported workforce mental health.⁵ Addressing stigma can also help build awareness and acceptance outside company walls — and send a positive message to customers.
Workforce wellness programs have become status quo. But many of these programs focus solely on physical health issues like preventing chronic conditions, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and quitting tobacco.
Leaving mental health out of the equation could compromise the effectiveness of these programs — because mental health plays a significant role in these same conditions and behaviors:
By incorporating mental health into your workforce wellness strategy, you can help employees living with mental health conditions manage their symptoms better. That puts them in a position where they can take full advantage of your workforce wellness program — and become healthier and happier overall.
Fighting stigma is about creating awareness, encouraging acceptance, and challenging false beliefs. It starts with breaking the silence around mental illness and education about things like:
ICU is a workplace awareness campaign designed to reduce stigma and foster a culture that supports emotional health. This simple training program prepares employees to recognize signs of distress among coworkers, provide support, and encourage peers to use their company’s mental health resources.
Originally developed for DuPont employees, the ICU program was later donated to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, where it’s now available to employers everywhere for free.. external link Today, ICU gives companies of all sizes the tools they need to start a conversation about mental health and stigma in the workplace.
By addressing stigma in the workplace, employers have a unique opportunity to make it easier for their employees to get help. In a workplace culture where mental illness isn’t stigmatized, employees are more likely to be aware of available resources, start treatment sooner, and recover more quickly.
At the same time, this can be a hard conversation for employers to start. There are multiple factors at play — attitudes and beliefs about mental illness are shaped over time by various social, cultural, and economic environments. To make it easier for employers to tackle this tough subject, the National Alliance on Mental Illness developed a program to help companies like yours take meaningful steps to become stigma-free.. external link
Cosette Taillac is the strategic leader for mental health addiction and recovery. She has worked for Kaiser Permanente for 20 years. Cosette has a master’s degree in child and adolescent mental health from the University of California, Berkeley and is a licensed, board-certified psychiatric social worker. Since 2017, she’s been a board member of the One Circle Foundation, a nonprofit that implements evidence-based models for promoting resilience in children in the United States and Canada. She created a mind-body-spirit curriculum for empowering girls as part of One Circle’s Girls Circle program.
How to pick a mental health app for your workforce wellness program >
Opioids, addiction, and creating a recovery-ready workplace >
Help your employees discover healthy ways to manage stress >
“StigmaFree Company,” National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI.org, accessed January 31, 2019.
“Bad for Business: The Business Case for Overcoming Stigma in the Workplace,” National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, 2015.
See note 2.
“Investing in a Mentally Healthy Workforce Is Good for Business,” Center for Workplace Mental Health, workplacementalhealth.org, accessed February 1, 2019.
Health Shield Insights Twitter Poll, July 2018.
“Tobacco Use Among Adults With Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov, accessed February 14, 2019.
Jonikas et al., “Associations Between Gender and Obesity Among Adults With Mental Illnesses in a Community Health Screening Study,” Community Mental Health Journal, 2016.
“Chronic Illness & Mental Health,” National Institute of Mental Health, nimh.nih.gov, accessed February 14, 2019.
Services covered under your health plan are provided and/or arranged by Kaiser Permanente health plans: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., in Northern and Southern California and Hawaii • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia, Inc., Nine Piedmont Center, 3495 Piedmont Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30305, 404-364-7000 • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc., in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., 2101 E. Jefferson St., Rockville, MD 20852 • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, 500 NE Multnomah St., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97232 • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc., 320 Westlake Ave. N, Suite 100, Seattle, WA 98109 • Self-insured plans are administered by Kaiser Permanente Insurance Company, One Kaiser Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
Congratulations! You have successfully saved this item.
To access your Saved items any time, open the "Saved Items" folder in the top right corner of the page.
View Saved Items >
It seems that you do not have cookies enabled. Please enable cookies to make use of all of our site's functionality.
You haven't collected any items yet.
Click the "Save" icon next to the content you want to revisit later.
Click on the "Saved Items" link at the top of the page
or use the URL we create for you.
Be sure to copy and paste the URL we create for you before you leave the site.
1-5 of 14
After leave the site, your saved items will be saved for you at this URL:
Share your list