Executive Education

Breaking the stigma: leaders inspire transformation3 min read

May 15, 2023 3 min read


Breaking the stigma: leaders inspire transformation3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutesReading Time: 3 minutes

According to Kelly Greenwood, the founder of the non-profit Mind Share Partners, corporate leaders sharing their personal mental health stories can significantly help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues by normalizing the experiences of leaders and professionals who face challenges like stress, burnout, grief, or diagnosable conditions. By openly sharing their stories, leaders show that vulnerability is a strength and demonstrate that it is possible to succeed and thrive while managing mental health challenges. Numerous publications such as Fast Company, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal have featured Kelly as an authority in the field of workplace mental health. She is also a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and Forbes, and serves as editor-at-large for Mental Health at Work, a special blog section on Thrive Global.

Greenwood explains that leader-ally stories can reduce stigma and normalize mental health challenges as an essential part of the human experience. Encouraging leaders of all levels to share their stories position vulnerability as a strength and demonstrates that it is possible to succeed and thrive with a mental health challenge. Moreover, sharing personal experiences can improve the effectiveness of other workplace mental health initiatives, such as training and awareness campaigns, by making them more unique and signaling their importance. It is crucial to consider the timing and audience for sharing your mental health story. While sharing in a large meeting or all-staff email can significantly impact, sharing one-on-one with colleagues or in a smaller group setting may be more appropriate. Take into account the culture and norms of your workplace, as well as the potential impact on your own well-being, before deciding how and when to share.

Mind Share Partners has launched the “Leaders Go First” campaign to encourage organizational leaders to share their mental health stories in an empowering way. The campaign includes videos from C-suite leaders and a companion playbook to inspire and teach leaders to share their stories. This type of storytelling is a powerful tool to encourage openness and transform organizational culture, and it shows that mental health challenges do not preclude being a successful professional. Crafting a compelling and impactful leader-ally mental health story can contribute to proactively supporting workers’ mental health and building healthy and sustainable work cultures, leading to drastic improvements in individual lives, communities, and professional cultures.

There are similar initiatives taking place at universities across the globe to prioritize student mental health and well-being. Many institutions have implemented partnerships with virtual health companies, like Harvard’s collaboration with TimelyMD, to expand access to mental health services and provide flexible options for students seeking support. Harvard University Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) has partnered with TimelyMD, a virtual health and well-being company, to expand student mental health offerings and improve access to care. Through TimelyMD’s digital platform, TimelyCare, Harvard students receiving care through HUHS can access up to 12 free virtual therapy sessions per year, as well as schedule appointments with virtual providers for medication prescriptions. The partnership with TimelyMD is part of the university’s focus on student well-being and addresses the recommendations of the Task Force on Managing Student Mental Health. Students can access TimelyCare from any web-enabled device, and the service complements CAMHS Cares, a 24/7 support line for immediate mental health counseling. This collaboration provides flexibility in responding to different mental health needs and expands the delivery models for student mental health care at Harvard University.

These efforts contribute to normalizing mental health challenges and creating a culture of support and well-being. It helps to improve access to mental health services and support for individuals. These efforts promote openness, foster understanding, and contribute to building healthier work and educational cultures.