How open are Canadians about mental health in the workplace?

File photo. Alfonso Cacciola/E+

TORONTO – Four in 10 Canadians wouldn’t tell their boss if they had a mental health problem, a new survey suggests. But the poll results found that if Canadians knew about a colleague’s mental distress, he or she would help.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which revealed the poll results, says that employees are worried about potential stigma from coming forward with mental illness.

“A significant number of working people have mental health problems, or have taken a disability leave related to mental health,” Dr. Carolyn Dewa, CAMH’s senior scientist, said.

READ MORE: Is there enough mental health support for first responders?

“Stigma is still a barrier to people seeking help. Yet by getting treatment, it would benefit the worker and the workplace and minimize productivity losses,” she said.

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The CAMH poll took the pulse of 2,219 Ontario working-age adults and where they stood on mental health in the workplace.

Thirty-eight per cent of those polled said they wouldn’t tell their managers about a mental health issue. More than half of the time, it’s because they were afraid it would affect their careers.

READ MORE: Work-life balance, job insecurity key mental health factors in the workplace

Employees were also worried because of bad experiences of others who came forward, losing friends at work or a combination of these reasons.

Employees who said they would come forward tended to have a good relationship with their managers, the poll suggests. Organizations that had supportive policies also encouraged people to come forward for help.

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While mental health in the workplace seems like it’s flying under the radar, your colleagues are more cognizant than you realize. When asked if they’d be concerned if a coworker had a mental illness, 64 per cent of those polled said yes. They worried most about reliability and safety.

Last year, CAMH – along with other hospitals and organizations – adopted a new national standard on mental health in the workplace.

The authors say the thorough set of guidelines – called Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace –  is the first of its kind in the world.

READ MORE: Canadian gov’t inaction on mental health hurts economy, families: report

The document, which has been in the works for years, sheds light on how to identify and address psychological risks in the workplace while fostering a healthy environment for employees.

Click here to read a copy of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s new standard.

Recent polls suggest that one in five Canadian employees suffer from depression, with another 16 per cent conceding that they’ve already experienced the condition before.

The standard, called Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, can be applied to all sizes of organizations, from small-scale business, to government departments, unions and corporations.

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