We Need More Business Leaders Talking About Their Own Mental Health: Celebrity Stories Aren’t Enough

Bernie Wong | Senior Associate, Mind Share Partners

This article was originally published on Forbes. Go here to read more of Mind Share Partners' Forbes features.

Mental health in the workplace

Chances are you’ve heard stories of high-profile celebrities like Lizzo, Ariana Grande and Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness opening up about their personal challenges with anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. While these stories are important in helping to break down societal stigma at large, the workplace remains impervious. Research shows that while nearly 60% of U.S. employees experienced symptoms of a mental health condition in the past year, the same percentage had never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health status.

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Business leaders are the equivalent of celebrity influence in the workplace. To reduce stigma in the workplace, it’s going to require business leaders to share their stories publicly and within their organizations. Businesses have been more vocal and intentional in communicating support for LGBTQ+ equality, homelessness and other issues, pushing the dial on cultural change. Mental health in the workplace requires similar efforts.

Earlier this year, leaders across industries came together at Mind Share Partners’ Mental Health at Work 2019 Conference to discuss how going first in sharing their own mental health challenges has created change in their organizations.

Leaders Can Make It Safe For Others To Talk About Mental Health

It is a common misconception that leaders must be infallible in order to be good leaders. When it comes to mental health challenges, being open and transparent has clear benefits to others.

Robert Gill, who has held senior HR roles at various San Francisco Bay Area tech companies and currently works at Square, shared:

“I'm pretty open about being gay working in San Francisco. I don’t have to think twice about it. But it felt like it was a whole other coming out process when it came to my mental health stuff.”