15 underrated Netflix gems that will distract you from the news
15 underrated Netflix gems that will distract you from the news

Jennifer McShane

This home on Palmerstown Road, Rathmines is on the market for €2.15 million
This home on Palmerstown Road, Rathmines is on the market for €2.15 million

Megan Burns

Chunky wedges, midi dresses and light summer cardigans – What to wear to an Irish garden wedding
Chunky wedges, midi dresses and light summer cardigans – What to wear to an Irish...

Sarah Finnan

Lynn Enright: Who will I be then, if I am not the one cackling in the corner of the pub late into the night?
Lynn Enright: Who will I be then, if I am not the one cackling in...

Lynn Enright

Working from home doesn’t mean you have to be tied to your desk, here’s how you can multitask on the move
Working from home doesn’t mean you have to be tied to your desk, here’s how...

Melanie Morris

James Michael Tyler: Friends’ Gunther reveals cancer diagnosis
James Michael Tyler: Friends’ Gunther reveals cancer diagnosis

Jennifer McShane

Love Island’s Greg O’Shea is heading to the Olympics with the Irish Sevens side
Love Island’s Greg O’Shea is heading to the Olympics with the Irish Sevens side

Megan Burns

Nicola Coughlan teases details of new project she wrote with a pal
Nicola Coughlan teases details of new project she wrote with a pal

Sarah Finnan

What’s on June 2021: The new TV, streaming shows, books and podcasts to try
What’s on June 2021: The new TV, streaming shows, books and podcasts to try

Lauren Heskin

Prince William reportedly ‘threw Harry out’ of charity foundation over Meghan Markle bullying claims
Prince William reportedly ‘threw Harry out’ of charity foundation over Meghan Markle bullying claims

Sarah Finnan

Image / Agenda / Business

The sham of destigmatising mental health in the workplace


by Amanda Cassidy
19th Jan 2021
blank

For all of the progress we, as a society, have made in bringing mental illness out of the shadows, a stubborn stigma still persists. Amanda Cassidy reports.


Businessman, Matthew Sicome has bipolar disorder. Having spent much of his working life in America, Matthew was shocked to encounter the levels of stigma against mental health conditions in Ireland.

“In America as long as it was out in the open, it was like there was no elephant in the room, nothing waiting to come out. It would be impossible to be that open about my condition here. I think I would find it hard to get a job, to be honest.”

For all our fuss about workplaces that push mental health discussions; think emails about how to beat the January blues, 10 tips to live well with depression; seminars about anxiety or panic attacks, it seems that there is a limit to the type of “acceptable” mental issues that companies can stomach.

It is true to say that the stigma which prevented us from talking openly about mental health issues has been cracked wide open by large corporations when it comes to the wellness side of their employees.

But only with certain mental health problems.

Ann is one employee who describes it as “Mental Health lite.” She works for a big corporation here in Dublin. She says her mental health problems don’t seem to be covered:

“My inbox is flooded with well-being activities and mental health talks from my corporate responsible employer. They are so proud of lifting the taboo on mental health. But when you scratch the surface, these resources are all focused on workplace stress or maybe anxiety or depression if we are lucky. The odd seminar on grief or ADHD is about the extent of it.

Where are the conversations around unresolved trauma, borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia? These are mental illnesses that need to be destigmatised just as much and are just as problematic to businesses as stress in the office.”

Of course, we cannot absolve our health system from the responsbilities of treating such illnesses. It isn’t really the job of employers to mind minds. However, fancy footing around it means that those with less acceptable forms of mental health problems feel further isolated.

Anxiety ok, schizophrenia, not so much.

Businesses have an ulterior motive to ensure employees are healthy both of mind and body. But, as Alexander Den Heijer wrote;  When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.

Either we are lifting the taboo or we are not.

Plus, the more cynical of us would point out that corporations don’t really care, not really. They are brands, giant logos. Their mission, their legal mission is to drive business and profits. Their mission isn’t to do society’s job, lifting the dark place where these problems are forced underneath. And while it is wonderful that so many initiatives are being rolled out – let’s not miss the wood for the trees.

There is also the legal ramifications of being too open with your employer. While it may seem well-intentioned to monitor the mental health of your employees with their best interests in mind, it raises multiple legal and ethical questions. It is after all the feelings and emotions of an individual that the employer would be monitoring in the workplace.

The risk is that such data would be accessible by the employer and possible third-party service providers and can be easily misused.

The whitewashing of mental health problems continues online. Influencers duly share their experiences of anxiety or offer quick grounding techniques to reduce depression, along with a string of strong-arm emojis. But when it comes to some pretty brutal mental health problems, there is a deafening silence.

The shame surrounding the more explosive issues like; psychosis, suicide, PTSD persists. That’s not as easy to share. It is much less comfortable exposure. Yes, these problems are far less common but they too fall under the umbrella of mental health.

Either we are lifting the taboo or we are not.

Of course, nobody would dare minimsise how debilitating anxiety or indeed any mental health problem is for anyone. The dark fog is always close. But the differential here is how we have learnt to embrace and destigmatize certain disorders but not others. There is a disconnect in the shame, and that matters.

It prevents those who need help the most from seeking it. And the cost to business and society is high.

Image via Unsplash.com