We are all broken, that's how the light gets in

#ChooseToChallenge Mental Health Stigma

Statistics say that 1 in 5 people will experience a mental injury or illness in 12 months. This doesn’t take into account the last 12 months we’ve had…

Mental health problems aren’t ‘crazy’ or ‘out there’ things that other people experience. Mental health injuries and illness include things we have ALL experienced in the last 12 months, such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse. 

Alcohol is a substance. Drinking is a part of the Australian culture and was considered an essential service at the height of lockdowns. We often don’t associate regular drinking with substance abuse. However, if you rely on a drink at the end of most days because you need to wind down and work is too stressful, this may be an issue and you may need to seek help.

Mental illness affects a person’s thinking, emotional state and behaviour, and disrupts the person’s ability to work or carry out other daily activities and engage in satisfying personal relationships. Isn’t this all of us at some point?


The stigma

The mental health and wellbeing of workers is a focus for many organisations right now. Mental health policies are being created, wellbeing programs are being implemented, some organisations are equipping staff with a Mental Health First Aid certificate and even introducing Mental Health First Aid Officers. 

Has this changed the stigma surrounding mental health? Do you feel comfortable talking to your boss or colleagues about your mental health?

Health Direct Australia provides information on how to reduce and deal with mental health stigma, and why it exists. They say:

Stigma exists mainly because some people don’t understand mental illness, and also because some people have negative attitudes or beliefs towards it. Even some mental health professionals have negative beliefs about the people they care for.

Mental health stigma is a cultural change that needs to occur in organisations and our society. It’s not something that will change overnight, however the change can start with you and I. How do you support or treat yourself and others when there is a mental health problem? Would you know what to do or where to go for help?

The National Stigma Report Card shows how stigma and discrimination affect people living with complex mental health issues. 

Health Direct Australia also states that the media can play a part in reinforcing a stigma by:

  • portraying inaccurate stereotypes about people with a mental illness
  • sensationalising situations through unwarranted references to mental illness
  • using demeaning or hostile language

Jane Gilmore is doing great work in helping the media fix their headlines to be less biased and more factual. I encourage you to follow her to see how damaging headlines can be.

Did you know you can also report stigma to StigmaWatch?

SANE Australia’s StigmaWatch program was established in 1997 to promote responsible reporting of mental ill health and suicide in the Australian media. 

If you find media coverage that stigmatises mental ill health or irresponsibly reports suicide, you can report the item to StigmaWatch using the form located here https://www.sane.org/advocacy/stigmawatch.

The causes of mental health problems

We have all experienced trauma in our lives. It may be from: 

  • the death of a loved one 
  • a car accident
  • an injury or illness
  • an unexpected house or job move 
  • bullying or harassment
  • violence
  • natural disasters
  • neglect
  • poverty 
  • stress
  • discrimination
  • isolation
  • or a pandemic. 

These are all examples of trauma. I would say we have all experienced trauma over the last 12 months and no one has been immune to it. I would love to meet you if you are someone who has come out of 2020 unscathed and in perfect mental health. What does ‘perfect mental health’ even look like?

There is no scale or limit for trauma and it’s relative to each person. 

Treatment and recovery takes time. It’s not a quick fix and a lot of trauma goes unhealed.

When you break an arm or leg, you take time to heal. If you’ve experienced any of the traumas above, have you sought out treatment to help with recovery? The answer, sadly, is often no. 

When we feel unsafe, our fight/flight or freeze response is activated. Our bodies and brains literally stop functioning effectively. We can’t perform at our best when we’re in these states. Read more about how our neurobiology impacts our physical state in my recent article here

Trauma, mental health stigma, unsafe working environments, bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault create unsafe environments and contribute to, and cause mental health problems. 

Stressed woman in front of a computer

The disparity

Whether the perpetrator is male or female, there seems to be a disparity between how the victim or target are portrayed against the perpetrator. 

You may have noticed it – victims mental health problems have been cited as the reason why the allegation may be untrue. This is an example of a recent incident. The victim was:

suffering from a mental condition causing her to ‘detach from reality’

I’d like to add:

Bullying quote

Wouldn’t you agree?

What’s the solution?

If you can’t talk about it, you can’t begin to understand it or move forward. Visit my article on communicating to support mental health for more information.

Eliminate Sexual Harassment at Work – Webinar

I currently have an on demand webinar for the legal profession where I provide tools and strategies to:

  • Manage the risk and understand your obligations as an employer or manager
  • Know what to do if you witness or experience sexual harassment at work

I have a genuine respect for the legal profession and developed this webinar to support the people who support us. They often deal with some of the toughest cases in our society and I believe their role can be difficult enough at times. So to have to potentially deal with workplace hazards like bullying and harassment on top of that, compounds an already stressful role. 

The webinar offers 1.5 CPD units and I also provide a number of free resources across ethics and professional responsibility, practice management and business skills, and professional skills for another 8 CPD units to help meet your requirements for the year.

Register and receive immediate access today

About Nicole

I have over 17 years in communications and over a decade in the work health and safety and workers compensation industry including working for both NSW safety regulators. I’m looking at these issues from a range of different perspectives, including communications, media, workers compensation and work health and safety. 

I partner with courageous companies to identify and bring light to the shadows.

I provide strategies, tools and training for employers and managers to help understand the obligations, manage the risk, protect the organisation and workers, and eliminate the 7 dark sides of work. Connect with me or get in touch at hello@neonshed.com.au for a confidential chat today.