Canadians Still Reluctant to Admit Mental Health Issues

While more Canadians are recognizing depression (53%) and anxiety (41%) as disabilities compared to last year (47% and 36%), a stigma around mental health issues still exists, according to a recent RBC Insurance survey, which surveyed about 1,500 employed Canadians last spring. Three quarters of working Canadians say they would either be reluctant to admit (48%) or would not admit (27%) to a boss or co-worker that they were suffering from a mental illness. Also, the proportion who say they would not admit they were suffering from a mental illness is almost three times as high as it is for a physical illness (27% versus 10%).

“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,” says Maria Winslow, Senior Director, Life & Health, RBC Insurance. “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.”

Of course, employees are not required or obligated to disclose their mental state, however, acknowledging a health challenge and seeking accommodation from a supervisor or HR leader may help others in the workplace understand any changes in behaviour or performance. Employers can use and encourage the following behaviours:

  • Ensure coverage: 

    Mental illness takes both an emotional and financial toll. It’s important that Canadians not only ensure they have disability coverage, but that they understand the details of their policy —how their plan defines a disability and what is and isn’t covered. 
  • Utilize available workplace programs and services: 

    EAP and other personal support programs can provide fast access to treatment from top mental health specialists. 
  • Stay connected:

    Having a trusted network of support such as family, friends or professionals to reach out to when necessary is critical to recovery. 
  • Have a plan of action:

    Education around treatments and long-term outlook is important to help work through a diagnosis. Keep a journal and list methods of self-care, including setting goals and ways to stay healthy. 
  • Look for flexible benefits:

    Every individual’s needs for time off differ, including how they return to work. Look for insurance coverage that offers options for partial or residual disability, and a gradual return to work.

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