The stigma of mental health is powerful and has prevented countless individuals from looking for the care they deserve. Despite societal attempts to bring mental health care into the mainstream, mental health stigma is alive through media attention, fictional negative portrayals of mental health in books and movies, and pre-existing biases passed down through generations.

Misconceptions of what it means to have a mental illness in the workplace—including how it will affect their current roles, salary, job security, and workplace reputation—cause hesitation for employees and employers alike, even for companies who offer mental health and EAP benefits.

Learn more about the common mental health misconceptions in the workplace, how they influence business and productivity, and how leaders can resolve misconceptions.

Employee Mental Health Misconceptions

Mental health conditions can influence employees in many ways, depending on their condition cause and severity. An employee working through grief and experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression may be less productive, distracted, and disengaged. A neurodivergent employee with ADHD may have difficulty concentrating, staying on task, or being on time. In both cases, mental illness doesn’t define their potential, and both can overcome roadblocks with appropriate treatment and support.

Some common misconceptions include:

  • Workers are alone in their mental health struggles
  • Mental illness is not common
  • Mental illness is a sign of weakness
  • Mental health symptoms can lead to job loss
  • If they seek help, peers and leaders may discriminate against them

Believing these misconceptions while suffering from the effects of mental illness can make the condition and symptoms worse and lead to a drop in productivity and increased absenteeism.

Leadership Mental Health Misconceptions

For many employees facing a mental health condition, a little support from a manager or peers goes a long way. Unfortunately, many leaders also have similar misconceptions about mental health in their workforce, including:

  • Workers with mental illnesses don’t want to work
  • Mental health symptoms are an excuse to get out of tasks
  • Employees with mental health conditions are untrustworthy
  • High-performing employees can’t have a mental health condition

These misconceptions are often a case of self-fulfilling prophecy. High job performance demands, impaired interpersonal relationships with colleagues and supervisors, and organizational bureaucracy can cause an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can lead employees to appear unable to work or untrustworthy.3

Business Impact of Mental Health Misconceptions

Untreated mental health conditions significantly affect a business with high turnover and absenteeism. The monetary cost is also high: companies lose around 217 million days or $17 billion in productivity1 every year stemming from undiagnosed mental illness in their workplace. Depression can result in 26 additional employee absences compared to employees who aren’t depressed.4

Because of these misconceptions, some employees with diagnosed mental health conditions are seen as “unsuitable”2 or unable to work. For example, individuals living with schizophrenia are 7% more likely to be unemployed. Employers may be missing out on hiring and retaining exceptional workers just because they live with a mental health condition.

Striking Down Misconceptions for a Healthier Workplace

We invite leaders to stop misconceptions about mental health by raising awareness and recognizing mental health as a significant workplace concern. Creating a culture of support starts at the top, and simple and intentional actions can make a big difference in employees’ lives. Some ideas include:

  • Develop policies that normalize and support mental health treatment. Some examples may consist of offering tools to help employees with mental health conditions.
  • Educate employees and leaders. Providing information on the common symptoms of mental health conditions and dispelling myths surrounding these conditions can help support workers who may be hesitant to disclose a mental health diagnosis.
  • Show empathy. Leaders who show understanding and empathy make a huge difference to employees at all company levels. When employees feel they aren’t being judged negatively, they will feel more supported and more likely to be transparent about their struggles.
  • Avoid stigmatizing language. Never refer to a mental health condition as “crazy” or identify an employee by the situation. See the person, not their illness.

Uprise Health is committed to helping employers support their workforce with easily accessible mental health tools and digital solutions. Learn more about who we are and our approach to mental healthcare.