HCN News & Notes

State Leaders Join Campaign to End Workplace Mental-health Stigma

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Mass) announced that state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, along with Mental Health Commissioner Joan Mikula and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel, are now members of the CEOs Against Stigma team, joining nearly 90 chief executives and municipal heads across the Commonwealth taking the pledge to eliminate the stigma of mental illness in the workplace.

“I am proud to stand with Commissioners Mikula and Bharel and many other prominent CEOs in Massachusetts who have pledged to eradicate stigma in the workplace against those with mental-health issues,” Sudders said. “In order for stigma to be eliminated, we must create workplaces where people with mental illness can speak openly about their conditions without the fear of being socially ostracized or professionally sidelined in their careers.”

Mental-health conditions — including depression and anxiety ¬— affect one in five adults, and, unlike physical illnesses, they carry a stigma that prevent people from discussing them at work and can lead to high turnover, low productivity, and increased employer costs. In fact, mental-health conditions represent the leading cause of workplace disability.

“Communication and education are the keys to eliminating stigma,” Mikula said. “Mental illness impacts all ages, races, economic levels, families, workplaces, and neighborhoods. We need to promote a stigma-free environment. Support and acceptance is so important for individuals living with mental-health conditions. Just like any other illness, mental illness is treatable, and recovery both possible and real.”

The NAMI Mass CEOs Against Stigma campaign starts at the top, employing the commitment of CEOs and leaders across the Commonwealth to encourage communication about mental-health conditions, change misconceptions about them, and foster a stigma-free work environment so employees have the opportunity to speak freely about the conditions that affect them and their immediate families.

“Stigma has no place in our communities, or in our workplaces,” Bharel said. “Mental-health conditions must be treated like we treat other health issues — with respect for the individual and appropriate medical care. Stigmatizing these conditions prevents those in need from getting care they deserve.”

Laurie Martinelli, executive director of NAMI Mass, added that, “even in the best workplaces, mental-health conditions are often kept secret because of the fear of disclosure. As leaders in the field of public health, Secretary Sudders and Commissioners Mikula and Bharel understand that mental-health conditions are treatable and recognize the importance of educating employees and eliminating stigma at work.”

In addition to signing the pledge and encouraging open dialogue about mental-health conditions, Sudders, Mikula, and Bharel will make their combined 22,000 employees aware of the mental-health benefits available to them, and they have agreed to host NAMI’s In Our Own Voice (IOOV) program. These presentations feature two people who live with mental illness openly sharing their personal stories, including discussion of the onset of their disorders, their quest for answers and diagnosis, their treatment, and how they are achieving recovery.

Any Massachusetts company with at least 50 employees can join CEOs Against Stigma. For more information, visit ceos.namimass.org.

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