Would you know if your organisation was struggling with mental health stigma?

Emily Addison

Wrote this on, March 17, 2022


Mental health stigma involves the social disapproval, discrediting or discrimination of individuals with a mental health condition and is often divided into three types: public, self and institutional stigma. In the workplace, mental health stigma can affect all employees, not just those with a mental illness. The effects of mental health stigma can significantly impact an organisation’s culture, in particular, you may notice the following when stigma is high:

  • Reduced confidence and self-esteem in employees
  • Lack of psychological safety 
  • Increased absence and turnover
  • Poor engagement in wellbeing initiatives
  • A reactive approach to mental health solutions 
  • Decreased productuvity and performance
  • Poor relationships between employees 

Despite the negative effects of mental health stigma, recent research by McKinsey & Company found that ‘reducing stigma’ ranks last when employers list their top mental health priorities, even though 75% of them acknowledge the presence of stigma in their workplace. Unfortunately, this is not surprising as the abstract nature of stigma often deters employers from tackling it; yet the cost of ignoring workplace mental health stigma can be detrimental to both the organisation and its employees. 

A sneak peak at some of our data insights

We will be sharing a report soon that details the key data we have gathered in the last year, but we wanted to share a couple of insights that highlight the current prevalence and effects of mental health stigma in the workplace:

  1. 45% of employees would speak to no one at work about their mental health 
  2. 53% of employees would be worried about telling their employer if they had a mental health condition, in case it would negatively impact them
  3. 73% of HR professionals say that it is hard to engage employees in wellbeing initiatives

Edit: To view our report, Mental Health Stigma: The Elephant in the Room, please click here.

Is mental health stigma high in your organisation?

With stigma being so abstract, it can be hard to determine its level of existence in your organisation. However, it is likely that you can infer mental health stigma levels from the other wellbeing data that you have available. For example, here are some questions you may want to consider when it comes to identifying stigma in your organisation:

  • Could you identify the ‘1 in 6 working adults’ that are struggling with their mental health?
  • Are you unaware that employees are struggling until you see mental ill-health stated on a doctor’s note? 
  • Is engagement in wellbeing initiatives low?
  • Do your people managers care about their employee’s mental health?
  • Do employees cite mental health as a reason for absence? Do they have the means to do so?
  • Do employees access/use your wellbeing benefits?
  • Are burnout, presenteeism or leaveism high in your organisation?
  • How are you measuring or assessing the level of stigma within your organisation?
  • Do you have a health and wellbeing section within your engagement survey? If so, what is this data telling you about the degree to which employees feel safe and cared for by their manager and the company? What insights are the free text comments giving you about where improvements might be needed? 

Even though mental health stigma is slowly being chipped away, it is still high in society, so you may read this and realise that mental health stigma is prevalent in your organisation. Do not worry because you are not alone. What is important is that you actively do something to tackle it…

How can you reduce mental health stigma in the workplace?

To find out how you can turn your organisation from a culture of stigma to support, watch our webinar replay on ‘The #1 Mistake That Most Wellbeing Strategies Fail to Address’ or download our latest report ‘Mental Health Stigma: The Elephant in the Room’ here.



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