How to Destigmatise Mental Health in Tech and Foster a More Supportive Workplace

Mental health has long been stigmatised in the workplace, and the tech industry is no exception. As a sector renowned for being fast-paced and stressful, with long hours and the risk of burnout, it’s no wonder that employees – minority groups, in particular, often struggle in silence. The pressure to constantly appear productive, the fear of being perceived as weak or incapable, and the general lack of understanding and support around mental health can create an environment that discourages open dialogue and seeking help.

This stigma doesn’t just pose a significant risk to the wellbeing of staff, but for employers too. When left unaddressed, mental health issues can lead to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and higher employee turnover rates. What’s more, diversity and inclusion challenges are exacerbated when underrepresented groups feel unable to bring their full selves to work.


Causes of Mental Health Issues in the Tech Industry

Imposter syndrome, the persistent feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt despite accomplishments, is a prevalent challenge that can contribute to anxiety and depression. For individuals from underrepresented groups, the persistent need to prove themselves amongst their peers can result in feelings of isolation and exclusion. Many people feel reluctant to disclose their mental health struggles out of fear of being perceived as weak, incompetent or unable to handle the demands of the job. This hesitance to seek professional help can lead to a worsening of symptoms and a downward spiral of mental well-being.

The impact of mental health stigma often manifests in career setbacks and missed opportunities. For example, women who are struggling with mental health issues may be passed over for promotions, important projects or leadership roles due to unfair biases and assumptions about their capabilities. This can create a vicious cycle, where the stress and anxiety of feeling overlooked or undervalued aggravates existing mental health challenges like depression or anxiety.

The intersection of emotional wellbeing, a sense of belonging, and initiatives for DEI is undeniable. Individuals from diverse backgrounds encounter daily challenges such as a lack of representation, microaggressions and unconscious biases. This is why fostering an environment of safety and inclusion is paramount within workplaces.


What Does Mental Health Inclusion Entail?

Mental health inclusion encompasses the acceptance of every individual, irrespective of their identity, abilities, background or beliefs. Operating as a care model, it nurtures a sense of belonging and equity, ensuring that all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. Furthermore, it guarantees equal access to wellbeing support while dismantling barriers that hinder full participation.

Recent research findings have revealed that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to encounter mental health challenges. Transgender individuals are nearly five times more likely to face mental health issues than their cisgender counterparts.

The global economy suffers a $1 trillion loss in productivity annually due to depression and anxiety disorders, with depression ranking as a leading cause of disability worldwide. Individuals grappling with anxiety and depression symptoms constitute a vital segment of the contemporary workforce, and neglecting or marginalising their struggles carries significant consequences.


Strategies for Destigmatising Mental Health in the Workplace

Foster a Supportive Environment

Regardless of background or job title, everyone is susceptible to mental health challenges. By proactively addressing these issues and endorsing mental wellbeing initiatives, companies can help diminish the stigma attached to seeking assistance.

When staff feel secure and encouraged to address their mental health, they’re more likely to seek help when needed, thereby averting potential crises or worsening symptoms. Establishing a psychologically safe workplace not only bolsters team performance and morale but also enhances overall productivity.


Tailor Support for Marginalised Communities

Devoting attention to targeted support for marginalised communities within the organisation enhances the efficacy of any comprehensive mental health programme. In addition to promoting inclusivity, this approach allows for tailored solutions that address the specific needs of diverse workforce segments.


Boost Employee Resilience and Performance

Resilience flourishes in environments that prioritise mental health diversity. Surrounding individuals with supportive peers enhances their capacity to rebound and excel amid challenges, whether professional or personal. Organisations can aid their workforce in managing stress, enhancing resilience and achieving a healthy work-life balance by offering resources such as mental health training, counselling services and flexible work options.


Promote Regular Breaks and Relaxation

Ensuring there are regular breaks throughout the workday, especially for those in sedentary or screen-intensive roles which are common in tech, can alleviate fatigue and prevent mental burnout. Active encouragement for employees to use their annual leave and checking that employees suitably disconnect during their time off are equally crucial.

Encourage Empathy and Collaboration

Motivating a strong culture of empathy and understanding among employees stands as a pivotal advantage in cultivating mental health awareness within a diverse workplace. When individuals from varied backgrounds come together, their collaboration often leads to more insightful decision-making and effective problem-solving.

Being able to secure a working environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their perspectives, concerns and challenges necessitates creating a culture that values open communication and mutual respect for each other’s mental wellbeing. This fosters stronger teamwork, sparks innovation and fosters a deeper sense of community.


Lead through Demonstrated Behaviour

Leadership plays a vital role in mental health advocacy by actively engaging in initiatives and exemplifying healthy work habits. This includes taking breaks, refraining from sending emails outside of work hours, and openly discussing personal strategies for stress management. By leading by example, leaders set a positive tone for employees to emulate.


Provide Access to Resources

Offering mental health resources and support services constitutes another crucial tactic. This may involve providing access to counselling services, employee assistance programs, or mental health training and workshops. By ensuring these resources are easily accessible and actively promoting their utilisation, employers convey a clear message: seeking help is not only permissible but actively encouraged.


Employers have a responsibility to recognise the importance of mental health support in developing a strong and productive workplace. Reducing the stigma around mental health issues is the first step – from fostering a language of empathy and honesty, to supporting staff in increasing their own resilience to stress and overwhelm, and creating a workplace that understands the value of work-life balance.