Canadians still reluctant to admit to mental illness at work: survey

The majority of Canadians said they’d either be reluctant to admit (48 per cent) or wouldn’t admit (27 per cent) to a boss or co-worker that they’re suffering from a mental illness, according to a new survey by RBC Insurance.

Furthermore, the proportion (27 per cent) who said they wouldn’t admit they’re suffering from a mental illness is almost three-times as high as it was for a physical illness (10 per cent).

The top reasons for either not admitting or being reluctant to admit a mental illness are: believing there’s a public stigma around mental health (45 per cent); not wanting to be treated differently (44 per cent); not wanting to be judged (40 per cent); and fear of negative consequences, such as losing their job (36 per cent).

Read: Majority of Canadians suffering from a mental-health issue, sleeping disorder: survey

The survey also found more Canadians are recognizing depression (53 per cent) and anxiety (41 per cent) as disabilities compared to last year’s survey (47 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively).

“It’s encouraging to see that Canadians are making the connection between mental illness and disability, most likely because of educational efforts and the openness of those who are willing to share their personal struggles,” said Maria Winslow, senior director, life and health at RBC Insurance, in a press release. “However, it’s apparent that the perception of stigma still exists, which impedes some people’s ability or willingness to speak up and seek help.”

About half (47 per cent) of survey respondents said they believe if they admitted they’re suffering from a mental illness to their boss or co-worker, their ability to do their job would be questioned. Another 20 per cent said they feel their boss or colleague would see them in a negative light or distance themselves. In comparison, only seven per cent said they feel the same way about a physical illness.

Read: A primer on supporting employees with mental illnesses

However, when asked how they’d react if their boss or co-worker admitted they’re suffering from a mental illness, 76 per cent said they’d be completely comfortable and supportive.

Encouragingly, Canadians are recognizing the importance of disclosing a mental illness. Three quarters (75 per cent) of respondents said they believe not doing so would have a negative impact on their own personal well-being, followed by relationships with family (66 per cent), productivity at work (65 per cent), relationships with friends (64 per cent) and relationships with co-workers (64 per cent). More than half (57 per cent) said they believe it would negatively impact how quickly they can return to work following a leave.

“Canadians fear repercussions if they admit to a mental illness, which may prevent them from getting the help they need,” said Winslow. “However, if left untreated, a mental illness can ultimately have greater consequences if it leads to job loss and financial strain, particularly if an individual doesn’t have adequate coverage in place.”

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