Two-thirds (66%) of employees who took time off work for a mental health issue did not report it, according to a new survey by Morneau Shepell.

The survey also found that 31% of employers said support for mental wellness in their organization has improved over the last two to three years, compared to 62% that said it stayed the same.

“It is encouraging to see that Canadian employers are reducing stigma and increasing their focus on mental health issues,” said Alan Torrie, president and CEO of Morneau Shepell. “Support for workplace mental health is improving but there is still more to be done.”

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According to the survey, depression is now equal to high blood pressure as a top reason Canadians see physicians, with both ranked at 24%. Comparatively, musculoskeletal disorders were the top-ranked condition by 11% of physician respondents. And 63% of physicians reported that depression, anxiety disorders or stress-related issues had the fastest increase in cases they had seen over the last two to three years.

Among the employee respondents, 82% reported that struggling with mental health issues impacts their work, while just 53% of employees who reported struggling with physical health issues said it impacts their work.

“Each year, we see an increase in employees seeking support for stress and anxiety – conditions that are attributable to everything from the uncertainty of an unstable economy to difficulties in a personal relationship,” said Torrie.

“These concerns often have a negative effect on workplace productivity. On the other hand, employers who offer mental wellness support often see a strong relationship between mental health and engagement at work.”

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The survey also found that 67% of highly engaged employees reported excellent or very good mental health, compared to 35% who are not engaged. Additionally, 47% of employees who are not engaged reported extreme workplace stress, but 18% reported extreme personal stress.

Employees who suffer from workplace stress reported that the sources were due primarily to emotional or interpersonal issues (60%), compared to job-related issues (43%) and physical work-related issues.

Among respondents who are managers, 37% believe they have employees with significant stress symptoms, while 22% believe at least one of their employees has a substance abuse issue.

“It’s clear that a large number of managers are seeing behaviours such as lowered productivity, increased absences, anxious behaviour or a disheveled appearance that would lead them to this belief,” said Paula Allen, vice president, research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell. “This shows how important it is for managers to know how to respond appropriately.”

Read: How coping skills can keep your employees engaged at work 

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