Wellness Wednesday: Ending the stigma of mental health at Michigan Medicine

May 19, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

As the cold weather breaks and warm sun moves in, the stigma on mental health is still holding firm. So, how does that stigma get broken? 

It starts with support. The type of support that expresses compassion and fosters connection.

Here’s how you can play a role in providing that support at Michigan Medicine. 

Connection, compassion, community. Written with a flower and rock shaped like a heart in the background.

A need for connection

In a previous article, Headlines asked readers: ‘What best describes your feelings over the past year?’

  • 67% responded feeling anxious, exhausted or tired
  • 56% responded feeling overwhelmed
  • 44% responded feeling depressed or isolated
  • 44% responded feeling grateful

During the pandemic, it’s clear that the feeling of isolation has descended upon many people. It has been hard not being able to socialize in-person with friends or family. Other feelings of depression, anxiety and exhaustion have hit many members of our workforce. 

While some people enjoy alone time, too much can be damaging to your mental health. Human connection is a part of life. Even the hermit living on a remote island needs human connection at some point. 

“When we talk with other people about difficulties, we can receive validation, empathy and practical support,” said Kelcey Stratton, clinical psychologist and program manager for Resilience and Well-Being Services in the Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience. “Other people can provide a different perspective on our challenges or help us find new ways to cope. By connecting with others, we recognize that we are not alone.” 

Focusing on each other

In the latest episode of Short Takes, the UH/CVC weekly updates video series, the importance of building a community of support is brought to the forefront. That episode can be seen at the top of this story.

As mentioned in the video, the stigma around mental health makes it difficult to express feelings or concerns in the workplace. Simply put, people do not want to lose their jobs or feel judged if they seek help. 

With that said, leaders and teams can create a supportive environment that allows for various ways of connection. One way could be to allow a few minutes during a team meeting to share some good news or learn something new about another colleague. Another way is recognizing others for their work, no matter the size or impact. Small wins matter. 

This can be done by the Michigan Medicine Recognition platform, during a meeting or in a separate note of appreciation via email or even a handwritten message either handed to someone or mailed to their home..

“Focusing on others and practicing acts of kindness can help people feel closer in relationships, and it also results in [eliciting] positive emotions,” said Stratton. “Words of gratitude are powerful.” 

Finding new ways to build connections should not feel like just another thing to do. Instead the focus should be on creating a culture of compassion, connection and community.

Support and resources 

Normalizing mental health is not about ads or marketing, it’s about honest and supportive conversations and a variety of resources to help.

In the latest episode of The Wrap employee podcast, Kirk Brower, M.D., talked about burnout in the workplace. 

“Burnout results from chronic stress in the workplace accumulating overtime and leads to feeling exhausted, cynical about work or feeling disconnected from other people,” said Brower.

As Brower mentioned, burnout is real. Stress is real. The support of a friend or colleague could make a difference in someone’s life.

Support a coworker by scheduling time for an authentic one-on-one conversation to check in and see how they’re doing. You can do this via Skype, Zoom, phone call or in-person. 

If you’re on the main medical campus, you can even introduce a colleague to one of the new “Recharge Rooms”

You can also help a team member by connecting them with the following resources:

Thank you for playing a role in ending the stigma of mental health at Michigan Medicine!