BOSTON (CBS) – Chief executive officers of 25 companies in Massachusetts will pledge to end workplace stigma against mental illness in a campaign organized by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
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On Friday, NAMI Massachusetts officially launches its “CEOs Against Stigma” movement at Massport’s Logan Office Center. Massport CEO Thomas Glynn and his co-signers lead approximately 55,000 local employees who will be served by the push for healthier, more productive workplaces.
“We are aiming big,” the executive director of NAMI Massachusetts, Laurie Martinelli, told WBZ-TV. The goal for the campaign is to recruit 250 CEOs and reach 500,000 employees.
Martinelli says targeting business leaders is a strategic decision. A NAMI survey of voters showed 92 percent of people would advise someone with a mental illness to talk about the condition with family. Yet only 22-percent of the respondents would recommend sharing that same diagnosis with co-workers.
“The stigma of mental health in a workplace makes it less likely someone with an illness will get the help they need,” said Martinelli. She notes mental illness is the number one cause of workplace disability in the country.
One CEO in Needham signed the NAMI pledge because he believes his job is to create the right environment for 2,500 employees to succeed. Andy Pond of Justice Resource Institute freely admits he has struggled to manage his own anxiety at times.
“If I’m meeting with an employee, I’ll ask how they’re doing and share a bit about my own experience,” says Pond. “If it’s okay for me to talk about that, that gives permission to lots of people throughout the company to be able to talk about it as well.”
Pond says the field of social justice is not unlike other businesses, it can be stressful and taxing for employees. More than just understanding on a moral level why it’s important to have a mental health friendly workplace, Pond says it’s good business.
“I’m nothing without the work that my staff do so I want to empower them to do as well as they can for as long as they can.”
CEOs who sign the NAMI pledge agree to make mental health presentations available to employees, re-examine company health benefits and employee assistance programs to ensure the availability of appropriate treatment options, and commit to creating a stigma-free work culture.
“CEOs are competitive, “ says Pond. “If you really want your company to be the best it can be, you should take a look at this pledge because it will help your company do a better job.”
To learn more about CEOs Against Stigma, click here.
For more information on mental health resources, please see this reporter’s note.