Website latest weapon in battle against mental illness stigma

The 'Take the Load Off' website is a valuable tool for people with mental illness.
PAULA HULBURT/STUFF

The 'Take the Load Off' website is a valuable tool for people with mental illness.

A new website trying to end the stigma surrounding mental illness has been welcomed in Marlborough.

The Mental Health Foundation has launched a new online campaign aimed at reducing discrimination across New Zealand.

Marlborough health officials say they hope the move will also help combat work place bias across the region.

The 'Take the Load Off' website is part of the Like Minds, Like Mine campaign which is overseen by Te Hauora o Ngati Rarua staff in Blenheim.

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Marlborough people have been sharing stories online to help encourage others.

A new website aimed at people with mental illness is helping raise awareness of the issue, says Marion Rowe.
RICKY WILSON/STUFF

A new website aimed at people with mental illness is helping raise awareness of the issue, says Marion Rowe.

Te Hauora o Ngati Rarua staff member Marion Rowe, who has suffered from depression herself, says the website encourages people who have experienced prejudice to share their personal experiences.

She hopes employers will take note too.

"Think how you would treat someone who is off work with an accident or surgery or returning to work from such an incident and treat them the same. Above all; know me before you judge me.

"Invite people who work on contracts like I am doing to come in and have a chat as we don't bite and won't picket your work frontage," she says.

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Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand research shows people with experience of mental health are at greater risk of unemployment, especially those with depression.

But Marion says in most instances, the bias is not deliberate.

"My personal view is that 'no' it is not blatant and intentional although there will always be a few with whom it is, but I think the most comes from fear and lack of knowledge.

"The public image of mental ill health is not always an accurate one and the sad or frightening cases that get into the media are a very small portion but get a lot of publicity," she says.

New Zealand law states it is discriminatory to make assumptions about a person's capabilities, their potential for promotion or the amount of sick leave they are likely to need, on the basis of their mental health.

People with mental health conditions should be treated the same way as any other member of staff unless they ask for help or demonstrate clear signs through their performance or behaviour that help is needed.

Marion says while she has disclosed her depression battle to employers, others needed to decide for themselves what is best.

​"If there is any feeling that disclosure could prejudice you against getting a job then you must weigh up the pros and cons of doing so. Negative comments and attitudes have the result of 're-traumatising' you thus destroying confidence which in turn makes it harder to then go out and market yourself for another job," she says.

For further information visit taketheloadoff.nz.

 - The Marlborough Express

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