Mental health affects one quarter of the US population, yet very few employees openly share this information with employers. Employers are asking: Why don’t employees share?
Donna Hardaker, Director of Wellness Works, was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal to explore the issue of disclosure in the workplace.
Employers often only hear about employees who have mental health issues when there is a problem at work, or when an employee is requesting accommodation. This creates an incorrect assumption that employees who have mental health challenges are problematic. Donna belongs to The Stability Network, a coalition of successful professionals who all have a diagnosis of a mental illness. Stability Leaders like Donna have chosen to share their stories publicly, to dispel the image of mental illness solely as one of dysfunction. This is a crucial component to stigma reduction: making visible a broad spectrum of the over 57 million Americans whose experience puts them inside the label of having a mental illness.
Creating safety for employees to share information about having a mental health challenge involves an evolution inside workplaces. Workplaces must examine how people who have mental health challenges are talked about, if derogatory language is used, if nasty jokes are made, if there is a history in the organization of employees who have mental health challenges being isolated, or terminated. When employers address these and other workplace culture issues, they can begin to build a safe environment in which disclosure of a mental health issue is as safe as sharing a diagnosis of asthma or arthritis.
Organizations must build the safe environment first before expecting that employees will share.
Wellness Works can help.