Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace

By: Drake WellbeingHub


Mental health stigma is an inhibiting factor in today's world, at times preventing individuals from accessing the mental health support that they need to navigate through the lows of life.

In this blog post, we interviewed Kevin Vowles, Head of Clinical Services of Drake WorkWise to understand what Mental Health stigma means in the workplace. We spoke to Kent Hannam, Drake WorkWise Business Development Manager, to understand why stigma prevents people from getting the help that they need and to Rebecca Ciappara, Drake WorkWise Partnership Manager, on one key strategy that she recommends to her customers to reduce the impact of mental health stigma in the workplace.  

Kevin Vowles believes that mental health stigma is of particular concern in the workplace, in some industries more than others. Mental health stigma is the negative view or attitude towards people struggling with their mental health, including those living with a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression.” 

Mr Vowles argued that stigma in the workplace can: 

  • lead to discrimination, including harassment;
  • affect people’s attitudes and beliefs towards those struggling with their mental health (including themselves); 
  • prevent those struggling with their mental health from feeling safe to disclose and seek support from their employer and others around them. 

Evidence tells us that just over half (or 54 per cent) of people with a mental health condition are not seeking treatment. The longer a person delays treatment, the more likely they are to take leave, resulting in significant impacts not only for the worker, but for the team and the workplace. 

Stigma may prevent a person experiencing a mental health issue from seeking help in a timely manner. Mr Vowles said “this can lead to poorer health outcomes.” 

Stigma may lead workers to hide or ignore risks to their mental health for fear of negative repercussions in the workplace, such as being treated differently or losing their job.  This in turn can hinder employers’ ability to identify and quickly respond to the risks, which may lead to more severe health outcomes for workers (Comcare, 2022) 

Research has found that when people have higher levels of wellbeing they are: 

  • 6x more likely to feel engaged 
  • 29% more likely to be more productive 
  • 45% more likely to be satisfied in their jobs 
  • 32% less likely to quit
  • 46% less likely to experience unhealthy days, and 
  • 125% less likely to burn out 

Ref. The Wellbeing Lab 2018 Australian Workplaces Report 

Considering these findings from The Wellbeing Lab, reducing mental health stigma in the workplace needs to be prioritised by business leaders. In reducing mental health stigma, employees are more likely to feel safe and comfortable asking for help and getting the support that they need during challenging times.  

“It is assumed or implied that a mental health condition will lead to societal disapproval and that society places shame on people who live with a mental illness or seek help for emotional distress. As a community, we have an opportunity to not only support those seeking mental health support, but equally focus on what a person can do, not what they cannot.” says Kent Hannan, BDM Drake WorkWise.  

Focusing on the positives leads to far better outcomes than focusing solely on the negatives, and if we can instill confidence in individuals facing mental health challenges, we’re likely to see improved outcomes in terms of productivity, engagement and satisfaction levels. For organisations, there is a moral responsibility to support the mental health of employees. In a post COVID world, there is now far greater pressure on organisations to support the wellbeing of the workforce, create a psychologically safe work environment and emphasise the importance of a work-life balance.  

Our Partnership Manager Rebecca Ciappara works with customer organisations Australia-wide to ensure the effective roll-out and management of their EAP programs. She works with her customers to ensure that all employees have access to the support that they need and that business leaders are equipped with the knowledge and capability to influence systemic change, because we know that change in an organisation often stems from the top. She believes that both Education and Communication are integral to de-stigmatisation of mental health issues in the workplace. If we can educate and empower leaders to have open conversations with their employees, we can begin to normalise mental health and minimise stigma associated with it. When employees see this behaviour being modelled, it helps to shift their perception and increase their comfort with talking about mental health, which is still seen as a taboo topic.  

Mental Health stigma in the workplace is often overlooked but has a great impact on the health and wellbeing of employees, workplace culture, productivity levels and overall job satisfaction. It’s time that we break down the stigma, normalise mental health and ensure that everyone has equal access to the support that they need during times when they need it most. It is normal to not be ok, it is normal to struggle with mental health challenges and it is normal to ask for help when you need it.  

Take the first step and ask for help by contacting the Drake WorkWise team on

1300 135 600.  

Stay informed on all things wellbeing in the workplace and help your organisation thrive!

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