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Breaking mental health stigma with workplace programs

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

With one in four people struggling with a mental health disorder, it has become a growing concern in the workplace. As part of our Mental Health reporting Initiative, WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the Mental Health Association of Erie County has named a new director of workplace well-being.   

“Everyone is affected by it – both the employees and employers who are impacted by mental illness,” said Dan Lukasik.

Lukasik is an attorney. He is well-known expert who has been widely featured across the nation after he created his own support group called lawyerswithdepression.com.  Lukasik was diagnosed with depression 15-years ago. 

“The rates of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses continues to rise. I think it has something to do with stigma and people not getting treatment. We know people can’t recover on their own. I think it also has to do with the kind of lifestyles we lead, you know we’re always, always on the go,” Lukasik remarked.

Credit Photo from Dan Lukasik's webpage
Dan Lukasik, named new director of workplace well-being at Mental Health Association of Erie County.

Lukasik will now oversee the Mental Health Association's Mindset program. It’s an on-site workplace program that includes one-hour seminars or 12-week intensive workshops for businesses. The health association said the programs can also be customized to meet specific workplace needs.

“Educating both the employees and the employers and then setting up strategies where you have a healthy climate, where these issues can be talked about, there’s no shaming, there’s a sense of hope,” stated Lukasik.

Often employees hide their mental illness an employer. But the Mindset program is designed to helping businesses create mentally healthy workplaces and employees.

“What we are trying to encourage is that a lot of reasons why people don’t get help, and as many as 60-percent of people with mental illness issues or problems do not get help, is because of stigma and that stigma can exist outside the workplace, but for much of the time, for many years, it’s also existed within the workplace,” noted Lukasik.    

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Inside workplace space.

Lukasik tells WBFO News breaking the stigma of mental health will be key for employers and employees deal with the issue head-on.

"And we know now that it costs the U.S. economy just billions and billions of dollars in lost productivity and health care costs because of mental illness problems in the workplace including depression, anxiety, Bipolarism,” Lukasik said.

We asked Lukasik how to help break the stigma against mental health disorders.

“The best advice I have is – we tend to think of people as broken, people with depression as broken – or hapless or we feel sorry for them. That’s not what a person with depression really wants from other people. They want someone to listen, they want someone to care. I often say that some of the finest people that I have met in my life are people who struggle with these issues and I think of them as my heroes. These are people who overcome tremendous obstacles with their mental health and get up every day, put on their ‘work boots’, go to work, support their families, are good parents,” Lukasik replied.