While Canadians’ mental health continues to suffer, LifeWorks Inc.’s monthly index has seen some improvements, including in its anxiety and psychological health sub-categories.

The index reported a negative 10.7 overall mental-health score for April, slightly higher than negative 11.2 for March. In addition, the majority of sub-scores showed improvements over the previous month. The anxiety sub-score improved the most when compared to March, from negative 12.7 to negative 11.6, while the psychological health sub-score increased from negative 3.9 to negative 3.3, beginning to reverse a previous trend of steady declines since the introduction of the index.

“Canada has experienced an uneven recovery in the past month, with more restrictive lockdowns and uncertainty about vaccine availability causing continued feelings of isolation and uneasiness,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer at LifeWorks (formerly Morneau Shepell Ltd.), in a press release.

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“Employers must recognize the long-term consequences of this and take the appropriate steps to get ahead of future uncertainty and mental strain by providing accessible mental-health support to employees.”

While 54 per cent of respondents said they don’t need support, 31 per cent said they’ve taken steps to improve their mental health and another 14 per cent haven’t taken steps but said they’d like to. Within the latter group, 30 per cent reported that affordability of care is the greatest barrier to mental-health improvement, followed by having no energy to seek care (29 per cent), uncertainty about the proper care for their needs (27 per cent) and having no time (24 per cent).

“There are two very significant issues at play with the reluctance to seek care,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice-president of research and total well-being at LifeWorks, in the release. “First is that people often do not realize the options available to them like their employer-sponsored employee assistance program, health benefits and other sustainable well-being solutions. The majority of the Canadian population has access to employer-paid mental-health support and many may not be aware.”

“The second issue is that delaying care during this prolonged period of strain, actually makes things worse and more difficult to deal with in the longer term. Better awareness of options — the willingness and encouragement to use them — is essential to our long-term mental health.”

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