July 14, 2024

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How we talk about mental health in our corporate communications

How we talk about mental health in our corporate communications

In many companies, mental health remains a taboo topic.

Often times, our teams are afraid to talk to their managers or colleagues, and problems can escalate, both for organizations and individuals. For this reason, it is important to change the internal culture by raising awareness about mental health.

We know that the biggest barrier for someone to seek help is anticipating the impact a mental health diagnosis may have on their future functioning. No one wants to wear that label. So, silence and concealment ultimately become a survival strategy.

It’s not about pushing anyone to explain a complex situation that could cause problems at work, it’s about creating safe and healthy environments so conversations happen naturally.

For this reason, more and more companies are working on their internal communications in this direction with the aim of showing stakeholders that attention to mental health at work is real and that a new era has begun in this regard.

But taboos exist. The stigma surrounding mental health ultimately makes us feel afraid when creating messages or choosing images so that we don’t fall into stereotypes and can cause the opposite effect to the desired one. These insecurities eventually condition the way we communicate about the topic or we may leave the topic aside.

from OperamentWe have been building and accompanying anti-stigma social marketing campaigns for more than 10 years and we know very well that this process can be complicated if we do not have adequate advice.

There are some differences regarding the usual communication that we develop in our companies.

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The main thing is to define our goal. Identifying the stigmatizing behaviors we want to change is the first challenge we have to face; It is not a simple problem because it forces us to analyze the attitudes of our teams that generate a specific culture around mental health. Fortunately, there are scientific methodologies that help us in this purpose.

Once we know exactly what problem we are facing, comes designing our communication procedures. In 2011, Patrick Corrigan, dean of the Illinois Institute of Technology, published a study on how anti-stigma communication campaigns can most effectively achieve their goal. He pointed out 5 principles to consider, which are defined by the acronym TLC3: Targeted, Local, Trusted and Continuous Communication.

  1. communication: Connecting people who have experienced mental health issues with our target is essential. It is important to distinguish between a communication strategy and an educational strategy, which generally seeks to compare mental health myths with facts.
  2. Targeted: Rather than focusing on the general population, outreach is most effective when it targets key groups, usually people in positions of power. Within a company, it is strategic for change to be driven from the top down. We don’t just talk about “who”, but also about “what” exactly we want to transform in our organization.
  3. local: It has several meanings, including, for example, geopolitical factors, diversity, moral origin, religious origin… These are just examples of a variety of factors that must be taken into account when developing effective strategies.
  4. reasonable: Three considerations guide credibility. First, the individual serving in the liaison role must be similar in race, religion, and socioeconomic status to the group we are targeting. Second, the contact must have a role similar to that of the contact Goal. Finally, the connection must be restored. Interactions are most effective with people with mental health problems who live normal lives, work and live independently, have good relationships and have a satisfying quality of life.
  5. continuous: A one-time contact may have some positive effects, but the effects are likely to be fleeting. Multiple connections must occur and the quality of the connection must vary over time.
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Although these steps show us the way to get started, we have concrete actions that we can develop in our organizations as part of an internal campaign.

some examples

  • Normalizing mental health: Improving mental health awareness is the best way to overcome stigma.
  • Talking about mental health: It’s easy to think that there is no right place or time to talk about mental health. But the more we talked about it, the better everyday life became for our team.
  • Share your experience: If you have a story to share, do so. Having leaders who lead by example is key.
  • Support your colleagues: Implement mental health programs and policies in the workplace.
  • Recruit Champions: Leaders are employees at any level of an organization who help challenge stigma and change the way their colleagues think and act about mental health.

There is no single way to break the stigma around mental health in our companies. We know the methodology, but applying it depends, in the end, on knowing the reality we face.