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Cevallos joins campaign to end workplace stigma related to mental illness

By Jillian Poland

President F. Javier Cevallos has joined CEOs Against Stigma, a statewide campaign to end the stigma related to mental illness in the workplace, according to a press release from Dan Magazu, FSU communications director.

CEOs Against Stigma was launched in 2015 with a grant from the Attorney General’s office, according to Magazu.

The campaign is the result of a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of

Massachusetts (NAMI Mass), which revealed people with mental illness in the workplace often do not seek help because they “fear the consequences of disclosure,” according to the campaign’s website.

Cevallos said, “Mental illness is one of those things that is kind of an invisible issue. People don’t really think about it too much or talk about it. ... When the National Alliance on Mental Illness approached me ... I thought, ‘What a perfect opportunity for the whole campus to reflect on what it means to be truly inclusive of everybody, and to also remind people that mental health issues are health issues.’”

NAMI Mass aims to sign on 250 CEOs and reach 500,000 employees across the state, according to their website.

CEOs who join the campaign sign a pledge to educate themselves and other top executives about mental illness, promote a stigma-free workplace, ensure employees have access to effective benefits for mental illness and addiction and help educate the public.

The pledge also includes an agreement to consider an Employee Assistance Program, which offers free and confidential counseling, assessments, referrals and follow-up services for employees with personal or work related problems, according to the United States Office of Personal Management website.

As part of the pledge to NAMI Mass, FSU will be hosting an “In Our Own Voice” (“IOOV”) presentation during the fall 2017 semester, said Cevallos.

“IOOV” is an hour-long talk given by two individuals living with mental illness, according to the NAMI Mass website. The talk focuses on the individuals’ journeys will mental illness and includes videos, discussion and personal testimonies.

Paul Welch, director of the University’s Counseling Center, said in an email, “Stigma is supported, in part, by silence and invisibility. ... Many of us have struggled with mental health issues and the more we talk about it, the more we can lessen the power of the stigma, and the more we can get the help/treatment that is needed.”

Welch is excited that Cevallos signed the CEOs Against Stigma pledge. “President Cevallos is letting us know that our mental health matters, and that is a very good thing,” he said.

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