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COVID-19 Mind Your Business

Mind Your Business – Removing Stigma – Workplace Mental Health

This content has been adapted from Morneau Shepell's workhealthlife.com, part of the CDSPI Members' Assistance Program (MAP). MAP is available to you, your family and team member.

Access their website here

Stigma occurs as a result of stereotypes and negative perceptions and is often associated with mental health conditions. Stigma can occur both externally and internally (self-stigma), and is a major barrier that may prevent an individual from seeking help for what is often a very treatable condition.

External stigma may be obvious and direct, for example, when someone makes a negative remark about another person’s issue or treatment, or it may be subtle, such as when someone assumes that a person is unstable, violent, or dangerous because of his or her mental health condition.

Self-stigma exists when people with mental illness internalize the negative stereotypes and opinions towards themselves. These negative perceptions can lead to self blame and low self-esteem. Individuals with a mental health issue often say that stigma is far worse than the illness itself.


According to Health Canada, that’s the number of Canadians who will directly experience mental illness in their lifetime. That means someone close to you may need an ear to listen, or a shoulder to lean on.

Take an active role in contributing to better mental health for yourself and others.  Removing stigma is one of the 5Rs of workplace mental health. Read on to learn more about how removing stigma can make a difference.

What you can do to help remove stigma

As a person with a mental illness:

  • Get treatment. Don’t let stigma hold you back from seeking help.
  • Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. You may have the mistaken belief that your condition is a sign of personal weakness, or that you should be able to control it on your own. Seek help from mental health services and educate yourself about your condition.
  • Try to constructively influence the people in your life. When you hear people say things that show they do not understand mental illness, use the opportunity to share with them some of the information that you have or share your story.
  • Speak out against stigma. Find the right forums to express your opinions whether at the workplace or in your personal life. Your speaking out may help build courage in others facing similar challenges.

As a friend, parent, co-worker, or people leader:

  • Learn the facts. One of the best ways to remove stigma about mental illness is by understanding what it is and what it is not.
  • Speak with dignity and respect. Choose your words carefully, use respectful language, emphasize abilities not limitations, and refer to the person not the disability or illness.
  • Speak up. Tell people when they express a stigmatizing attitude or opinion.
  • Support your co-workers. Ask and learn about the mental health policies and programs available in your workplace.

As an employer:

  • Educate and inform. Communicate about mental illness across the whole organization to reduce fear, stigma, and discrimination in the workplace.
  • Foster a healthy workplace environment. Establish a culture that is conducive to supporting employees’ mental health by raising awareness of workplace programs and policies that promote mental and physical health and wellness.
  • Strengthen people leader skills. Train managers how to identify the signs and symptoms of mental distress, and on available employee tools and supports.
  • Start at the top. Encourage senior executives to demonstrate leadership around mental health.
  • Promote accessibility. Provide access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other appropriate referral resources to assist employees.

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