Friday, January 29, 2016

EAPs: Say "People with Mental Illness", not "Mentally Ill"

This is not about political correctness. A new study says the most subtle differences in how mental health professionals refer to people who are mentally ill can affect how others perceive them and fuel stigma and discrimination. I believe it. When I was a student in graduate school, I worked in a half-way house residential setting for schizophrenics and severely mentally ill. The facility was an old Victorian home, with perhaps eight rooms. The program was hugely successful in behavioral contracting and getting people affected by mentally illness on their feet with jobs and proper med management. But, the culture of employees there was not conducive to de-stigmatizing (sp?) mental illness. Staff were absolute pros at their work, but they would use terms like "crazy" and make jokes about residents. This research goes much further that even this behind closed doors "gallows humor." Now research seems to address this problem in even more basic way, and I think EAP Employee Assistance Programs should read this research press release to help ensure they are setting the right examples in their work. For example, participants in a recent study were more likely to agree with the statement “the mentally ill should be isolated from the community” than the almost identical statement “people with mental illnesses should be isolated from the community.” Incredible. Here is the press release. Educate your student interns. Set the example, be a change agent regarding this problem.
#EAP Employee Assistance Programs