“There is no health without mental health,” says Husseini K. Manji, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., Global Therapeutic Area Head, Neuroscience, Janssen Research & Development. I can attest to this because I witnessed firsthand my own mother going untreated for a myriad of reasons. I watched how the lack of treatment affected her both physically and mentally.
I am one of the lucky ones who is fortunate to work for an organization that really gets it when it comes to mental health. And, because I am personally so passionate about mental health and wellbeing, I get to be a part of what we are doing at work to cause change inside our doors and beyond. This is happening in two ways at Johnson & Johnson:
- The science side of our business is making quantum leaps in mental illness treatment.
- In the advocacy side of our business, our voice is getting louder, causing real change in how we relate to mental illness as a company while influencing the external environment.
Incredibly passionate leaders like Dr. Manji are spearheading this shift. His passion in helping to address the stigma associated with mental health inspires me beyond words. He has highlighted in forums how important it is to have open discussions about mental health issues in order to reduce the shame associated with them.
“We want to reach a moment in history when people with a mental illness are treated no differently than someone who has a medical condition not related to the brain,” he says.
I love that vision and know that we will get there.
Dr. Manji is someone whom I have looked up to since joining Janssen, a leading-edge organization in the mental health space and the reason I sought out the company for employment when I was ready to advance my career. You can only imagine how incredible it was for me to receive his positive endorsement about my book Breaking Into My Life—my little contribution to this space.
Michelle Dickinson-Moravek should be commended for her efforts at candidly sharing her life story, in order to make a difference for others. Through her efforts, she is playing a major role in reducing stigma about mental illness and raising awareness about why there should not be stigma about brain disorders, thereby helping to facilitate treatment and care for those who need it. It may be a surprise for many to learn that globally more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability, and more than 26 million people have schizophrenia. Tragically, there are 800,000 suicides each year the world over. We clearly need to change these horrific statistics by taking them on as a shared societal responsibility. First and foremost, we need to do much more research to come up with markedly new treatments. There have been tremendous advances in other fields of medicine, and we can do the same in mental health to make exponential progress in our understanding of the causes of these illnesses and how to better treat them. The science is being translated into new medicines in development and these medicines will make a difference for patients.
But in this space, we also need to get treatments that work to those who need them. Less than half of people in the United States and far more worldwide don’t get the treatment they need because of stigma or lack of awareness. Stigma and prejudice should be unacceptable in our society. Mental illnesses are illnesses like any other.
Despite the grim statistics noted above, I am actually very optimistic that we have many reasons to be hopeful. We are making tremendous advances on the scientific front which will bring forward transformational new treatments and cures. But, equally importantly, pioneers like Michelle are speaking up about their own stories, and by doing so, and working with others, these altruists are doing everything in their power to make a real difference for the millions who are afflicted by these diseases.
I am fortunate to get to work with another equally passionate leader in the mental health space.
Craig Kramer is our amazing Mental Health Ambassador and Chair, Global Campaign on Mental Health at Johnson & Johnson. I witnessed Craig vulnerably take the TEDx J&J stage in 2016, where he authentically shared his daughter’s struggle with mental illness and her attempt at suicide. With that powerful talk, he would infuse an entirely different energy and call to action in the space of mental illness. Working with a team of remarkable employee volunteers, Craig is truly helping us lead the way in transforming the mental health conversation in so many ways.
Transforming the conversation is the most important step to cause change and empowerment. Sufferers and caregivers alike need to realize that they are not alone. And that’s where my goal comes in. My aim is to:
- Help create a conversation that was not going to happen otherwise.
- Connect people to support groups, educational resources and information.
- Foster an environment where individuals no longer suffer in shame and silence, and feel comfortable getting the treatment they need and deserve.
Here are five ways companies can make a real difference in supporting employees with respect to mental health, and help eradicate the mental illness stigma.
1. Become Aware & Cause a New Conversation
- Learn the signs of depression (https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression).
- Learn the signs of suicide (https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Suicide).
- Through special events like World Mental Health Day on October 10th, and Mental Health Awareness Month in May, promote awareness of mental health, foster more compassion and create a safe space of open dialogue.
- Cultivate an environment of caring in which employees check in with each other. A leader who served as one of the panelists during our World Mental Health Day event, Marene Allison, said it best. “Look up from your computer now and then, and check on each other. Something as simple as just asking each other “how you are doing?” could make all the difference.”
2. Create a Voluntary Mental Health Resource Group
- Because mental health issues affect all of us—as co-workers, friends, spouses, partners, parents, sons, daughters or as caregivers—we forged the Mental Health Diplomat Group. We are determined to raise awareness about the various mental health issues affecting those around us, and to share the resources available to our employees and their families.
- Our mental health resource group lives our J&J Credo by demonstrating inclusion for people living with or caring for mental illness, so we can all live a healthier lifestyle and be our best selves.
3. Provide Employees Mental Health First Aid Training
- This powerful program provides leaders and employees alike information about how to help a person who may be experiencing a mental health-related crisis or problem. Topics include anxiety, depression, psychosis and addiction. The program helps first responders be prepared when a mental health crisis happens, so they know what to do and can help those around them.
- The program provides risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, information on depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis and addiction disorders, as well as a five-step action plan to help someone developing a mental health problem or crisis. It also shares information about where to turn for help, including professional, peer and self-help resources.
4. An Employee Assistance Program that your employees can easily access for support and guidance.
5. Adequate mental health benefits coverage for your employees.
I hope these ideas help you to bring change to your workplace around mental illness. I am reminded of a quote by William H. Johnsen, that always resonated with me. “If it is to be, it is up to me.” I hope you act to cause change in your own workplace, however and whatever that may be.