Do you stay silent or risk stigma?

Do you stay silent or risk stigma?

Time to Change do an amazing job at raising the awareness of mental health and I am proud to be one of their Time to Change Champions. Nearly 100,000 people have now pledged their support to Time to Change to help end the stigma.

However, recently I found myself at odds with the advice being given out by their CEO Alice Baker and felt compelled to send her an email from Breaking the Silence. Alice was advising mental health sufferers to stay silent in the workplace if they perceived that their employers would not be sympathetic. I understand that Alice is protecting people from potential stigma which is still a very real issue but I still struggle to let ‘ignorance be the victor’ in the year 2017 when we have started to make some good progress.

I even asked Alice if she would advise a black person in the workplace to stay quiet if they felt they were being overlooked for promotion because of the colour of their skin. Surely, if we are to finally eradicate stigma we must deal with employers who are discriminating against mental health. Ironically, I believe it is time to change our thinking and as opposed to advising silence we should be providing a helpline for people to call for advice on how to deal with being stigmatised.

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To give balance to my thoughts, I must say again that Time to Change do an amazing job and are brilliantly led by Alice Baker. I do appreciate that the stigma leads to thousands of people committing suicide because they are ashamed and scared to disclose how they are truly feeling. Consequently, my view will not be shared by all and I am having to accept that some battles may be lost along the way. However, we will of course win the war.

I even asked Geoff McDonald this week on his thoughts about my email to Alice. Geoff was the Global HR Director of Unilever for 15 years and nobody is as passionate about ending stigma as Geoff. He understood my frustration but even more why Alice was advising silence. I should not have been surprised because stigma killed Geoff’s best friend.

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