Ding Dong The Stigma’s Dead! But hang on there’s a ‘HEALTH WARNING’!

Ding Dong The Stigma’s Dead…….. well a bit of wishful thinking I know, but we are making massive inroads into reducing the stigma associated with mental ill health and difference, and normalising the conversation publicly and within the workplace.

That said, there’s still a long way to go, especially with how the mainstream media report mental health matters, and how businesses ‘open up’ their organisations to mental difference and support employees that want to ‘open up’ about their personal intimate experience.

I work with many companies on this now and its refreshing to see just how committed they are to the cause, but it does come with its own health warning; something my customers are extremely aware of and alive to.

We are dealing with a very sensitive personal matter here and it’s not something to rush into or treat as a tick box exercise. An individual ‘opening up’ is a major consideration and undertaking and there is absolutely no going back for them.

It’s important then for companies to think very carefully about how they approach ‘lunch and learn’ and mental health awareness seminars and workshops because people will almost definitely ‘open up personally’ as a consequence.

I see it every time and am actually offering advice to many people that have ‘opened up’ to me personally after all of the talks and sessions I have delivered. I deliver a very upbeat, almost euphoric account of mental difference, which stimulates the liveliest of debate and moves the needle from negativity to positivity from one end of the scale to another.

This gives the audience and my clients the optimum outcome, but it does mean a number of things also need to be in place. First of all, it needs planning and de-risking. We work together to establish what success looks like and what needs to be in place when we have achieved it.

Ongoing communication mechanisms and platforms must be ready for conversation continuation, plus the Employee Assistance Programme must be primed and equipped to accept increased usage. Bespoke support resources must also be considered at the planning stage based on the audience involved and the perceived outcomes.

Finally people must be filled with confidence that ‘opening up’ will have absolutely no negative bearing on their career or treatment in the organisation. HR must be intimately involved at each stage, along with line management, and a mental health champion structure must be available for people to have others to reach out to for one to one support.

The same goes for management and leadership awareness and training programmes, because mental ill health doesn’t discriminate and it’s just as important that the train the trainer sessions are approached as strategically as the workforce sessions.

So if you are thinking of starting your journey, or even just holding an event, especially to mark mental health awareness week, please think long and hard about the outcome and ensure you are prepared for every eventuality.

I would love to hear from you if you are interested in a strategically planned approach to ‘opening up’ your business to mental difference.

Colin – www.apeoplebusiness.com