Almost half (49 per cent) of Canadians have experienced some form of mental illness in their lifetime, according to a new survey by Sun Life Financial Inc.

Anxiety (37 per cent) and depression (30 per cent) are the two most common forms of mental illness, according to respondents. Millennials (63 per cent) are the generation most likely to report a mental-health concern, followed by generation X (50 per cent) and late baby boomers (41 per cent).

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“The numbers speak for themselves — many Canadians say they have experienced a mental-health issue in their life,” said Jacques Goulet, president of Sun Life Financial Canada, in a press release. “To get at the heart of the issue, we need to open the lines of safe communication and work together to remove barriers. Connect with your personal support network, speak with your family physician or tap into your workplace mental-health benefits — these are some of the ways to find help that’s right for you.”

The survey also found Canadians are less likely to speak to their employer about a mental-health issue than they are to discuss a physical issue. Indeed, 56 per cent of respondents said they’ve had a conversation with their employer about a physical problem, while only 28 per cent have discussed their mental health. Respondents in Alberta and Atlantic Canada were the most likely to speak to their employer, at 34 per cent each, while Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia were least likely, at 24 per cent each.

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“It’s clear that social stigma still surrounds mental health across Canada,” said Dave Jones, senior vice-president in group benefits at Sun Life Financial. “People spend a big part of their day at work; they simply can’t put aside their mental-health issues while they are on the job. Employers have the opportunity to make a difference on this national issue. Creating a safe and supportive environment and offering tools and resources that support mental health and well-being can help employees overcome these challenges.”

Further, Canadians have a tendency to suffer in silence, with 27 per cent of those reporting a mental-health issue saying they’ve never spoken to a health professional about it. Millennials (33 per cent) were the least likely seek help, followed by generation X (27 per cent) and pre-baby boomers (23 per cent). By province, survey participants in Quebec (78 per cent) were the most likely to seek help from a professional, while those in British Columbia (68 per cent) were the least likely. 

“We’re socialized to view mental illnesses differently than physical illnesses,” said Dr. Sam Mikail, clinical psychologist at Sun Life Financial. “Many people struggle to describe what they are experiencing when faced with a mental-health issue. It’s easier to talk about a sore back than what’s on your mind. Know that you’re not alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help; speaking with your primary care physician or health-care professional is a good first step.”

Read: 2017 Group Benefits Providers Report: Insurers playing a role amid rising emphasis on mental health

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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