Mental health stigma is a barrier in the workplace, survey says

Talking about mental health issues in the workplace is a gray area for most people, according to a new survey done by Canadian researchers.

An estimated four in 10 people said they would not disclose a mental health problem to their managers - despite the fact that half of the 2,219 participants said they would want to help if they knew about a coworker's illness.

"Stigma is a barrier to people seeking help," said study leader Dr. Carolyn Dewa, from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). "Yet by getting treatment, it would benefit the worker and the workplace, and minimize productivity loss."

Positive relationships help

Survey participants were asked whether or not they would inform their managers if they had a mental health problem, and also whether or not they would be concerned about a colleague with a mental health issue.

Reasons for people not coming forward about a mental health problem included fear of jeopardizing their careers, fear of losing friends and the negative experiences witnessed in other people who had come forward about a similar problem.

Without disclosing mental health issues, Dewa noted, workers may find it harder to get excused absences for doctor's or counseling appointments.

To better help people with mental health issues in the workplace, getting policies and procedures in place and facilitating trusting relationships between manager and employee are key elements, Dewa said.

"The manager's position is so important, and it's really important to invest in training them," she concluded.

The study is published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Source: Center for Addiction and Mental Health

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