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Workplace stigma

There is clear evidence that stigma and discrimination can be a significant barrier for people with a lived experience of mental illness when seeking and maintaining work or progressing in the workplace.

Having a job can play an important role in promoting mental health and wellbeing and can support recovery from mental health conditions.

Employment also provides financial security, contributes to confidence, purpose and structure, helps build a sense of identity, and can be an opportunity to make a positive contribution.


In 2016 the Commission engaged EY Sweeney to research the workplace experiences of Queenslanders living with mental health conditions, and how these experiences affect their ability to gain and maintain employment.

EY Sweeney’s research report Mental health stigma reduction in the workplace, June 2018 also explored what made a positive difference to people’s employment experiences, and their perspectives on different approaches to addressing mental health stigma in the workplace.

The Commission outlined the key findings and next steps in its paper, Reducing mental health stigma in the workplace in January 2019.

Key findings

Mental health stigma and discrimination pose significant barriers to participation in the workforce and many other areas of life.

While employees with a lived experience generally expressed a high level of acceptance of their condition, mental health stigma was familiar to all, and that there was a ‘long way to go’ before stigma would disappear.

Employers generally considered mental health and wellbeing positive for business, however they found managing mental illness, including balancing individual need with organisational productivity challenging.

The report examined employer perspectives and employee experiences and highlighted the importance of openness about mental health in the workplace.

Reducing stigma

The research identified strategies to reduce workplace stigma, including:

  • culture and leadership
  • public awareness campaigns
  • education
  • contact strategies
  • diversity and inclusiveness.

Next steps

The Queensland Mental Commission remains committed to better employment outcomes for people with lived experience. This includes:

  • developing the lived-experience workforce
  • driving reform to help those with a lived experience find and maintain work, and
  • promoting workplace inclusion and diversity.

The findings of this research will help inform workplace and workforce development at the system and organisational levels.