A few LinkedIn searches reveal more usage of certain mental health hashtags than others. We’ve all seen posts with #depression, #anxiety, #suicideprevention, and #breakthestigma.
But how often have you seen a LinkedIn post with #mania or #bipolar or #schizophrenia? Maybe once or twice. Most likely, never. It’s more okay to talk about mental illness than it has ever been. According to research from the American Psychological Association, 87% of American adults feel that having a mental disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. But 33% admit that people with mental health disorders “scare” them.
While people are becoming more open to talking about mental health in professional settings both online and off, it’s easy to see that some illnesses are getting destigmatized faster than others.
Maybe the illnesses that are easier to talk about are the least scary to witness. Maybe they’re the ones that have people feeling down, instead of up. Or maybe it just follows the numbers. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue, and affect 40 million Americans. Depression affects 17 million Americans, while only 3.5 million Americans are living with schizophrenia.
Even though some illnesses are less common than others, they deserve to be destigmatized too. Here are ways to help:
Celebrate people who share their stories
As someone with bipolar disorder on the manic side of the spectrum (I very rarely have depressive episodes), I know it can be a challenge to throw out a post about mania.
When someone from your company shares their story with a lesser discussed mental illness, join the conversation. If you’re not sure what to say, try something like “You’re brave for sharing this, and your story is important. I hope it reaches those who need it most.”
Include stigmatized illnesses in company resources
Maybe your company offers access to on-demand mental health care from new solutions like Alma, Two Chairs, or Ginger. HR should use inclusive language around why the resource exists for employees, instead of just mentioning depression and anxiety.
For too long, companies have only provided access to suicide prevention hotlines. Not only should you help your employees well before that point, but you should also address other mental illnesses and concerns that aren’t diagnosable.
Be mindful of hurtful words and phrases
There are words that civilized people don’t say. I’m sure you can think of examples of name-calling from 7th grade that you haven’t heard in at least a decade. So why do people still use mental diagnoses as insults?
Saying things like “she’s acting bipolar,” “that’s so bipolar,” or “stop being so schizophrenic” are not okay. Just like it’s not okay to turn other pieces of identity into weaponized words. Of course, you can’t police everything your team is saying on conference calls. But you can include guidelines for destigmatizing mental health in the same places where you encourage employees in values of equity, anti-racism, and anti-homophobia.
Create branded content about a greater variety of mental illnesses
If your company doesn’t create content for Mental Health Awareness Month, that’s fine. But if you do, I encourage you to push the envelope a bit. Don’t just stick to safe stories and safe hashtags. It’s true, the world does need more content about the common issues of depression and anxiety, but what we really need is companies and content creators brave enough to forge the way with discussions about mental illnesses that are still very hush hush.
Retweet a bipolar influencer. Share a roundup of inspirational quotes from people with schizophrenia.
There’s still a lot of destigmatizing work to be done, so don’t stop at the easy tasks. Push your company to incorporate illnesses—like mania, schizophrenia, and so many others—that are still not spoken about at work.