Three-quarters of workers reluctant to admit to mental illness at work: survey

Fear public stigma, negative consequences such as losing their job
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 09/26/2019
mental health
Almost half (47 per cent) of working Canadians believe that if they admitted they were suffering from a mental illness to a boss or co-worker, their ability to do their job would be questioned. Shutterstock

More Canadians are recognizing depression (53 per cent) and anxiety (41 per cent) as disabilities compared to last year (47 per cent and 36 per cent), according to a survey by RBC Insurance

However, a stigma around mental health still exists, as three-quarters of working Canadians say they would either be reluctant to admit (48 per cent) or would not admit (27 per cent) to a boss or co-worker that they were suffering from a mental illness, found the survey of 1,501 workers.

The top reasons for either not admitting or being reluctant to admit a mental illness are:

  • believing that there is 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)
  • fear of negative consequences, such as losing their job (36 per cent).

Almost half (47 per cent) of working Canadians believe that if they admitted they were suffering from a mental illness to a boss or co-worker, their ability to do their job would be questioned.

An additional 20 per cent say they feel their boss or co-worker would look at them in a negative light or distance themselves.

But if a co-worker/boss admitted that they were suffering from a mental illness, 76 per cent said they would be completely comfortable and supportive, found RBC.

Recognizing the toll
Three-quarters (75 per cent) of respondents believe not disclosing a mental illness would have a negative impact on their own personal wellbeing, while at least six in 10 believe it would have a negative impact on their 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).

Over half (57 per cent) believe it would negatively impact how quickly they can return to work following a leave.

"It's apparent that the perception of stigma still exists, which impedes some people's ability or willingness to speak up and seek help,” says Maria Winslow, senior director of life and health at RBC Insurance.

"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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