Emma Roddick MSP has led a Members’ Business Debate in the Scottish Parliament on the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace.
The Highlands and Islands MSP highlighted that a report by Centred, a mental health organisation based in the Highlands, had drawn her attention to figures from See Me’s Scottish Mental Illness Stigma study, in which half of the respondents believed someone would keep a mental illness to themselves at work for fear of negative reactions like being bullied or even losing their job.
Reflecting on her own experience as the first MSP elected with a known personality disorder diagnosis, Ms Roddick expressed that her workplace felt like the ‘wrong’ place to have a perceived weakness.
“As a young woman, there is already an assumption that I’m not smart enough or strong enough to do this job, and that gets worse when it’s public knowledge that you have a mental illness. During my election campaign, there were numerous public discussions on my capability to be an MSP.
“The understanding of depression and anxiety is improving but when it comes to those of us with severe and enduring illnesses, like personality disorders and schizophrenia, there is still very much a belief that we are dangerous, cannot work, and should be avoided.
“It cannot be understated how important the use of language is in tackling stigma in the workplace. I regularly sit in the parliament and listen to colleagues using language irresponsibly, in a way that perpetuates stigma.”
“People need to be able to talk openly about their mental health if we are to overcome stigma. Let’s all of us do better and lead the way in Scotland being a more accepting country which doesn’t stigmatise those with mental illnesses.”
The Chamber heard cross-party contributions with Kevin Stewart, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, concluding the debate, stating that tackling stigma and discrimination around mental health remained a key priority for the Scottish Government.
Centred’s Mental Health: Exploring the Current Landscape can be found here