Executive Vice Chancellor Joyce A. Murphy signs NAMI Massachusetts CEOs Against Stigma pledge

June 26, 2015

Joyce A. Murphy, MPA, executive vice chancellor of UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, is one of the first 25 CEOS in Massachusetts to sign a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) pledge to end the stigma of mental illness in the workplace.

The NAMI Massachusetts chapter’s CEOs Against Stigma campaign launched at a June 26 press conference at the Logan Office Center in East Boston. Joyce Murphy and Beacon Health Options CEO Timothy Murphy spoke at the press conference, which was hosted by Massport CEO and fellow pledge signer Thomas Glynn.

“I signed the pledge to become a CEO Against Stigma because it made perfect sense to me. One of our key initiatives is to increase employment rates among people with disabilities, which includes people with mental illness,” Joyce Murphy said. “CEOs Against Stigma takes our mission one step further within our own organization by ensuring that we create a positive work environment and employment opportunities for those living with mental illness or those caring for a loved one with a mental illness. By educating our employees and opening up the dialogue, we are creating a healthier workplace.”

Mental illness affects one in five adults and is the leading cause of workplace disability. Unlike physical illnesses, mental illness carries a stigma that prevents many people from discussing their condition at work – leading to high turnover, low productivity and increased employer costs.

“Every day, we see how stigma interferes with a person’s willingness to get treatment,” said Laurie Martinelli, executive director of NAMI Mass, a nonprofit, grass-roots education, support and advocacy organization. “The research shows that, in the workplace, stigma not only discourages people from getting help, it also has a huge impact on productivity.”

CEOS Against Stigma recognizes that top-down leadership is required to change misconceptions about mental illness – including depression and substance use – so employees have the opportunity to speak freely about conditions affecting them and their immediate families, and seek support.

The campaign is open to all Massachusetts companies with at least 50 employees. CEOs are asked to sign a pledge that “encourages communication and understanding to foster a stigma-free workplace.” It also includes a commitment to bring NAMI’s “In Our Own Voice” (IOOV) presentations into the workplace. Recognized by a leading national mental health researcher as the most effective anti-stigma program in America, IOOV features two people telling their personal stories of recovery.

“The presentation helped educate our team about what it is like to live and work with mental health conditions, many of which affect us directly, or in our family circles. Our employees now know that we are committed to an open, caring workplace where supports are available to help them excel,” Murphy said. “I encourage every business executive across the state to take a hard look at his or her work environment and its policies related to disabilities and specifically today we are focused on mental illness. Sign on to CEOs Against Stigma. It’s not only good for your employees. It is good for business.”

NAMI chose to focus this anti-stigma campaign on the workplace, in part, based on results from a 2014 statewide survey of 800 voters, which NAMI commissioned to gauge attitudes on mental illness. The results showed while 92 percent of people would advise someone with mental illness to tell their family about it, and 76 percent would advise telling their friends, only 27 percent would advise they tell their co-workers. 

The campaign is being funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. As part of the campaign, NAMI Massachusetts will release its position paper, “Bad for Business: The Business Case for Overcoming Mental Illness Stigma in the Workplace.”

Murphy assumed the senior-most executive role at Commonwealth Medicine in 2011, five years after joining UMass Medical School and holding the position of vice chancellor and chief operating officer. Previously, she served as president and chief executive officer of Carney Hospital in Dorchester, founding president of St. Mary's Center for Women and Children, and vice president of St. Margaret’s Hospital for Women.

Murphy serves on numerous boards and commissions, including the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission Advisory Council; Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s Advisory Committee on Wage Equality; the boards of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Curry College, and UHealthSolutions; and the Leadership Council of the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare.