Mental health myths are abundant and pervasive. Dispelling myths in the workplace creates a culture in which stigma is diminished, and employees feel more confident in seeking help when they need it.

One of the main reasons employees are leaving jobs or feeling resentful is because they feel they aren’t being heard by management, or their boundaries are not being respected. According to the 2021 Mind the Workplace survey conducted by Mental Health America, 9 in 10 employees report that workplace stress affects their mental health. Unfortunately only 3 in 5 employees also feel like they are getting adequate support from their supervisors to manage workplace stress. A recent McKinsey survey verified that gap in support at work. While 71% of bosses think they support employee mental health well or very well, 73% of workers think their bosses may be “full of it” on that topic.

The way to begin closing that gap is to address the myths and stigma around mental health and how it’s addressed in the workplace.

Listen to “Dispelling Mental Health Myths in the Workplace” on Spreaker.

Myth 1 –  Mental health issues aren’t common (so I’m the only one…everybody else is fine).

Mental health issues are common are by no means a character flaw, workplaces need to abandon the stigma that comes from expressing mental health concerns. 

Depression and anxiety driven by chronic stress is very common. Burnout and resignation are a direct result of unresolved workplace stress. The first step to managing that stress is to set healthy workplace boundaries. 

1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental health issue in a given year, according to the CDC

Myth 2 – Mental health isn’t a “health” issue. It’s a character flaw/failing.

While many managers and employers may be well-intentioned, they might not be aware of how to address mental health in the workplace 

We need to train and coach supervisors and team leaders to support and honor the boundaries that are critical to managing stress. How many of you have experienced taking paid time off and yet not really getting time off from work? You may feel as though you need to check in with your team to be sure everything is going alright. Your boss makes you feel like you still need to check in and respond to work communication when you are away. That is an example of how culture and leadership training fall short of creating a culture that supports boundaries and stress management. 

Our emotions are part of our health, and need to be treated as such.

The workplace has gotten much better about accommodating health issues like diabetes and food allergies. Few people have difficulty making sure that sugar free, gluten free, or nut free options are available when it comes to snacks and lunches in the workplace. Accommodations for managing anxiety, depression, ADHD and other neuro-divergent conditions should not be any different.

Listen to “Mental Health Myths Part 2” on Spreaker.

Myth 3 –  I’m never going to feel better.

The success rate of mental health treatment is very high. But, due to cultural stigma many adults wait years from the onset of symptoms before they seek treatment. Some adults never get treatment, often because of lack of access to affordable treatment. Treatment doesn’t mean pharmaceuticals either. Learning how to recognize patterns in your emotional state and what triggers the onset of anxiety, depression, PTSD all help people feel better but continue good mental and emotional health.

We all thrive in an environment where we feel validated and supported.

Myth 4 – People with mental health issues can’t work.

This myth shows up not only in the general perception that people aren’t able to function but also in the idea that providing accommodations is expensive, time consuming, and counterproductive. Many managers and team leaders find it difficult to adjust to the needs of individuals on their teams and would rather not hire or manage someone who works differently. This myth is also why many people struggle with mental health at work and do not speak up. They fear that rather than provide an accommodation, their boss would likely transfer or fire them.

Empathy and accountability can exist in the same space.

Changing culture to remove stigma and be more empathetic can be challenging. Collecting feedback and holding culture change accountable with data is a great place to start.

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By Michelle Stinson Ross, Writer for Mindful Appy

I’m currently practicing as a digital strategist and marketer, and applying mindful practices to marketing communication and storytelling.