No matter where you are in the world, there are still plenty of myths, exaggerations, confusion, and stigmas associated with mental illness. Whether one should ‘come out’ depends entirely on the context, and there are many issues to consider here. Even then, many environments and social norms can make it difficult for an individual to come forward and share their issues.
Firstly, let us discuss the need to come out. Normally, health matters, be it physical or mental, are private affairs. To share or not to share these issues with others is the complete prerogative of the individual in question. One can share one’s health issue with people they trust and depend on.
When it comes to work and colleagues, the situation can be very complex. Not to say that all colleagues will be judgemental. In fact, it is arguably more acceptable to come out in today’s environment due to the trend to ‘come out’ gaining traction in recent times, whether it about one’s sexuality or health issues. Regardless, the purpose and intent of an individual to disclose their personal matters should still be well thought through.
Workplaces usually tend to be microcosms of the wider culture and society they are located in. Unfortunately, most cultures commonly share misconceptions and stigmatise mental health issues; though there has been some improvement over the years. This is dangerous in a sense as it may lead to people labelling others into black and white categories.
In reality most mental health difficulties lie on a continuum rather being categorical. In fact, one could say that the entire range of mental wellness to illness is a continuum, and a dynamic process. In modern-day, the definition of mental health has expanded greatly. It is such that mental health issues technically permeate throughout all societies and cultures. Those that are defined as ‘common mental health problems’, are so common that in fact, almost all of us can be said to suffer from mental health issues.
Over the years, our media and entertainment has portrayed mental illness as an exaggerated stereotype. This has led to the perception that mental illness will eventually lead a person to become unable to function normally and consistently in both occupation and daily life; thus fuelling the stigma. In fact, modern-day treatments and psychiatry has allowed most mental illnesses to be easily manageable. It is imperative to seek appropriate and timely help, like one would for physical health difficulties.
Finally, the one true way forward is to create more awareness to counteract the stigma and misconceptions surround mental illnesses. Educating people about the true nature of mental illness is obviously a gargantuan task. However, we will only be able to shift this paradigm if all stakeholders participate. Many organisations and businesses have begun to recognise and do work to improve perception on mental illness, but there is still a long road ahead. The level of awareness and factual clarity about mental illnesses in the wider society will reflect in the work place setting as well.