As Canadians’ mental health continues to decline, employees are still hesitant to reach out to friends and co-workers to get help to deal with mental-health issues, according to Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s new monthly mental-health index report.

According to the report, February’s mental-health index (negative 11.5) is slightly higher than January’s (negative 11.7) score; however, compared to the pre-2020 benchmark, the report indicates a continued decline in Canadians’ mental health for the eleventh-consecutive month. Indeed, the report noted depression held this month’s lowest sub-score (negative 13.9), which dropped slightly lower than in January (-13.4), but was nearly identical to the outset of the pandemic (negative 14.0 in April 2020).

Read: Canadian workers prioritizing mental, physical well-being during pandemic: report

“The extreme isolation and loneliness that we reported in recent months is having a direct impact on Canadians’ mental well-being, with many people feeling the same level of depression that was reported almost one year ago when it was at its lowest point,” said Stephen Liptrap, Morneau Shepell’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release.

The report showed stigma associated with mental-health issues continues to be prevalent, as employees are still hesitant to reach out to friends and co-workers to get help. More than a third (37 per cent) of respondents said they believe they’d be treated differently if their friends learned they had a mental-health issue. The report also found 44 per cent of Canadians believe their career options would be limited if their employer was aware they had a mental-health issue. And, half (50 per cent) of managers polled noted they anticipate their career would be impacted if their employer knew of a mental-health issue, compared to 39 per cent of non-managers.

And when broken out by age, young Canadians aged 20 to 29 reported more concern (54 per cent) about limited career options should they reveal they’re struggling with a mental-health issue, compared to workers aged 60 and above (38 per cent).

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“Uncertainty about immunization timelines has left Canadians questioning when they will be able to return to the routines they had in place before the pandemic,” said Liptrap. “Through these times of prolonged uncertainty and isolation, organizations have an added responsibility to pay close attention to their team members’ needs and watch for indicators of worsening mental strain, to ensure employees are set up for success both within and outside of the workplace.”

Read: Managing the employee mental-health tsunami