When you think of the words diversity and inclusion, you may think of how individuals are different or similar when it comes to values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds and preferences. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines diversity as the collective mixture of differences and similarities. Inclusion as the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources and can fully contribute to the organization’s success. Diversity and inclusion is one of HR Florida State Council’s Core Leadership areas.
For these reasons, HR Florida has forged a partnership with NAMI Florida and its Stigma Free campaign. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness and is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI Florida, a 30-year-old organization, has 26 affiliates throughout the state with volunteers who work to raise awareness and provide support and education. The Stigma Free Florida campaign is a grassroots campaign targeting influential leaders in the business community and engaging them in a public awareness campaign to reduce the stigma around mental illness. The campaign was originated by NAMI Massachusetts and has been adopted by Florida. The campaign was unveiled during Mental Health Awareness Month in May.
“HR Florida is looking to expand our diversity and inclusion initiatives beyond traditional diversity categories,” said HR Florida Diversity Director Eve Sweeting. “NAMI Florida initially reached out [to HR Florida] in an effort to reach the business community.”
Stigma Free Florida emerged as a way to educate business leaders and HR professionals on how employees and employers are impacted by mental health issues.
“As HR professionals, we are in a unique position to help employees who need assistance while also assisting employers in improving workplace policies and procedures,” Sweeting said.
According to NAMI Florida, mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability in the nation. Individuals with an anxiety disorder, for example, experience an average 5.5 work days a month where they are unable to work or had to cut back their work due to their illness.
Most employees are afraid of disclosing their illness for fear of judgment, retaliation or job loss. Employers can play a huge role in increasing employee productivity with just a few adjustments; namely by fostering an environment that encourages an open discussion about mental health illness and wellness.
“Many people are uncomfortable discussing mental illness, particularly in the workplace it’s easy to categorize individuals with a mental health challenge as ‘crazy’ or ‘off balance,’ and there’s judgment around that,” NAMI Florida Executive Director Alisa LaPolt said. “We judge them and their mental disorder as a weakness … that’s the mindset we’re trying to change through the Stigma Free Florida campaign.”
Statistics show that, this year alone, one in five individuals will face a mental health challenge, and it’s important that they and their loved ones know that there is hope with help. A mental illness is no different than a physical illness.
At a minimum, NAMI Florida hopes the campaign will result in greater awareness in the workplace about mental illness and the individuals and families affected by it. The organization will also begin to build momentum for long-term efforts to secure mental healthfriendly policies and increased funding by Florida lawmakers. HR Florida has committed a $1,000 donation to the campaign.
Take Action Now and Other Key Information
• Act now by becoming a partner and signing onto the Stigma Free campaign, working with NAMI Florida and its affiliates to increase knowledge and expertise around employee mental health.
• Download the toolkit containing tips for employers and employees for accommodating a worker with a mental health challenge, as well as a sample memo for employers to distribute in the workplace.
• Sign the Stigma Free Florida pledge. Businesses can assist by signing the pledge and implementing the steps and advertise on their website as a resource.
• Find the nearest NAMI affiliate for classes, workshops and support by accessing their website www.namiflorida.org.
• Visit the HR Florida website: www.hrflorida.org.