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Raising awareness of depression to overcome the stigma

Spill's qualified therapists answer real questions from employees dealing with depression.

I want to raise awareness of depression in my company, especially amongst men where the stigma is especially bad. Are there any practical things I can do or resources I can share?

Our first therapist suggests...

Share experiences

It’s useful to think of how you can encourage people (especially men) further forward from raising awareness, because they often are aware but just don’t want to talk about it, into a place where they feel able to take action, and one of the most effective ways of doing this is by providing someone who can model the behaviour you’re trying to encourage.

For example, finding members of staff, especially senior ones, who are willing to share their personal stories about depression, the ways in which it affected them, and how they managed to get through it provides great examples for others that may be in need of talking to someone but finding it hard to open up.

Of course, this sort of strategy is great for all members of staff, not just men.

If you can’t find anyone within the organisation try highlighting the stories of people in popular culture who have shared their stories. For men, someone like the rugby player Joe Marler has an inspiring story to tell because he talks about how hard he fought it, which will be a familiar scenario for many people, again not just men.

Make it easy for people to talk about depression by signposting them both to resources they can use when they want to talk to someone, like Spill, and by making available resources that are more passive but remind staff of the importance of talking about feelings of depression and low mood.

Consider running a campaign where you send regular communications about depression and the impacts of letting it go untreated. This can include personal stories, or details of organisations that can help, such as Spill.

Most of all try and make sure that senior leaders talk about the importance of acknowledging depression and other mental health issues, because what comes from the top does tend to have an impact.

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Our second therapist suggests...

Work on inclusivity

What a great idea. Engaging your workforce in mental health awareness is about making mental health in the workplace more open and accepting for the employees.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Get rid of the stigma. Mental health is not a luxury but a prerequisite. If the company is not used to discussing mental health topics, gently introduce it. Talk about the real-life consequences in meetings, both with management staff and employees. Hold ‘courageous’ conversations.
  2. Hold workplace activities. Reflecting the theme through branding on social media, pamphlets, films, and workshops. This time allows you to start conversations regarding mental health among your employees.
  3. Provide a platform for discussion. Fixing on a specific time to have mental health discussions with your employees can do a great deal in raising awareness about the same, weekly sessions with employees- both one-on-one and in groups to talk about the issues.
  4. Introduce inclusive policies. You need frameworks to prevent discrimination, harassment, or the prevalence of mental health stereotypes.
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Our third therapist suggests...

Take action

Thank you for your question on raising awareness on depression in the workplace. You particularly want to raise awareness with men.

The following are ways to raise awareness of depression:

  • Modelling: show staff the behaviours you want to see more of that contribute to good mental health. Examples of this are having a healthy work/life balance, taking holidays/ breaks/ time off for sickness when needed, avoiding being reactive and working on several jobs at once and talking about what you do to look after yourself if you feel comfortable with this (this could be things like exercise/ meditation/ hobbies).
  • Access training: encourage that all managers in your business access mental health training. Everyone at work benefits from mental health training and if you want mental health to be part of the workplace culture training is a good start.
  • Understand intersectionality: as you have already identified there may be things about stereotypes that affect depression. Men may find it harder to ask for help due to gender stereotypes and men are more at risk of suicide. Men may also express depression more via anger and irritability rather than being weepy or sad. There are other differences to consider. Men from the LGBTQ community and minority ethnic groups may also be more vulnerable to mental health issues. Men with ASD and ADHD also face additional difficulties. It will help to access training on intersectionality, or which refers to this.
  • Be mindful of workplace issues that lead to depression. Workplace factors may lead to depression such as bullying, ineffective communication, unreasonable expectations, low autonomy, and isolation. Aim to understand your workplace environment and how safe it is for staff. Advocate and initiate changes where necessary.
  • Set up an Employee Resource Group. This would be a group of volunteers who take responsibility for compiling and sharing mental health resources.

I hope this gets you off to a good start!

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