SPRINGFIELD — Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe is known across the Commonwealth as a leader and innovator in law enforcement. Now, he’s become the first sheriff in Massachusetts to join the NAMI Mass CEOs Against Stigma campaign, pledging to create a mentally healthier work environment for the employees of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department.
“As sheriff of Hampden County for over 41 years, with 900-plus employees and over 1,500 inmates in our custody, I know all too well the stigma surrounding mental illness,” Ashe said. “My staff is committed to treating these afflictions and removing the stigma that surrounds this critical issue in the workplace as well as in the community.”
The campaign is designed to put an end to stigma in the workplace, employing top-down leadership to change misconceptions about mental-health disorders and encouraging people to open up and speak freely about the conditions that affect them and their immediate families. Mental-health disorders affect one in five adults and are the single greatest cause of lost productivity at work.
“We all know the stigma surrounding mental-health issues prevents many from seeking treatment,” Ashe said. “That is why I’m committed to this effort.”
Bernice Drumheller, president of NAMI Western Mass., noted that, “unlike physical conditions, mental illness is often not discussed in the workplace. Sheriff Ashe understands the importance and positive impact that the CEOs Against Stigma campaign brings to the work environment.”
By signing the CEOs Against Stigma pledge, Ashe makes the commitment to open up dialogue about mental-health conditions without fear of disclosure as well as making employees aware of the benefits available to them. He will also bring into his workplace NAMI’s In Our Own Voice presentations, an effective anti-stigma program.
The goal of CEOs Against Stigma is to have 250 chief executives — including elected officials — join the campaign and to reach a half-million employees. Any Massachusetts company or organization with at least 50 employees can take part. For more information about CEOs Against Stigma, visit ceos.namimass.org. To contact NAMI Western Mass., call (413) 786-9139.