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mental health

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Nearly half of working Canadians say that work is the most stressful part of their lives, and many find work is a source of depression and anxiety, a new study says.

The online survey of more than 1,000 working Canadians was conducted last month by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Ottawa-based Partners for Mental Health, a not-for-profit organization which aims to improve how Canadians deal with mental health issues.

The survey found that 16 per cent of working Canadians feel their job is a frequent or ongoing source of feelings of depression, anxiety or other mental health symptoms.

But employees are loathe to talk to their employers, colleagues or even friends about the issue because of the possibility of stigma, discrimination and a lack of support in the workplace, the survey found.

The study also found that two in three Canadians said they would not have an open discussion with their boss about their mental illness.

Partners for Mental Health said employers can't afford to ignore mental health at work, given that it costs Canadian employers and the economy about $51-billion a year, according to a 2008 study.

About 500,000 Canadians miss work each day because of mental health issues, according to a 2006 federal government report.

"The detrimental effects of unmanaged mental illness in the workplace – from the impact on the individual, to loss of productivity, and to increased disability claims – confirms the critical need for businesses and individuals to take action when it comes to mental health" Jeff Moat, president of Partners for Mental Health, said in a release.

"Even though 44 per cent of workers say they have or have had mental health issues, people are still not talking openly about it in the workplace. This has to change for the sake of business and the long-term health of all employees."

To help ignite a discussion, the group has launched a campaign and website called Not Myself Today, which is designed to educate and get Canadians talking about mental health in the workplace.

It's also aimed at getting business to step up and ensure they have a mentally healthy workplace that doesn't tolerate discrimination and bullying.

The campaign encourages companies and organizations to participate in a "Not Myself Day @ Work" day during which they can host activities – such as lunch-and-learn events or ask speakers or employees to share their personal stories – to help managers and employees learn more about the issues and how they can help to create healthier workplaces.

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