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A study on mental health in the workplace by The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell has found that stress or trauma are the leading causes of mental health issues, and that most people don't let their employer know they are suffering from a mental issue.
The online survey, which had 1,575 voluntary participants, found that 34 per cent of participants said stress was a main reason for their mental health issue, and that 55 per cent of respondents did not tell their workplace about their mental health issue. Of those respondents, 70 per cent reported that their work experience affected their mental health and 72 per cent said they felt their mental health issue will hurt their career potential.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that one out of five working Canadians lives with a mental illness each year. With a work force of just over 18 million people, this means that 3.6 million working Canadians have experienced, or will experience, some form of a mental health concern this year.
The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell online survey (The Mental Health Experience in Canada's Workplaces: What's Your Experience?) collected information about the mental health experience of Canada's work force, such as: the types of issues (physical and mental health); how people cope with their issues; therapy options; mental health stigma; how organizations support staff with a mental health issue, and the impact of mental health issues on work experience and missing work.
The aim is to use this information to help individuals and organizations understand the experience of employees with a mental health issue. This understanding will continue to expand and foster the mental health conversation in Canada, support organizations in providing support for their staff who are experiencing challenges, and bring light to the difficulties facing workers with mental health issues.
This article is the first of a two-part series to provide a high-level overview of the results we gathered and discussed at the first annual Employee Recommended Workplace Awards ceremony, held in June at The Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto. In addition to these articles, our goal is to create a detailed white paper that displays all the data we collected in this first study. We're leaving the survey open so the one in five workers with a mental health issue who has not participated yet can add their voice to this conversation. You can participate in the survey by clicking on this link.
Perhaps the No. 1 barrier for seeking support for a mental health issue is lack of awareness. Often, individuals can struggle with a mental health issue without knowing they have one. Similarly, many people who are not suffering from a mental health issues don't fully understand what those issues can include, don't understand what mental health issues are, what happens if you're experiencing one, why these challenges can occur, and the impact of living with a mental health issue.
The survey shed light on several interesting trends. The graphic below gives an overview of the key findings from those experiencing mental health issues who participated in the survey.
Mental health issues don't often occur because of a single event; often it's the accumulation of multiple events or prolonged, unwanted "bad stress." Preventing or coping with a mental health issue in the workplace involves active participation by both employers and employees. It's the employer's responsibility to build an environment that supports mental health, ensures psychological safety, and removes stigma. On the other hand, every individual in the workplace owns their mental health. Individuals can reduce their risk and learn to cope better with a mental health issue or illness by building up their coping and resiliency skills, getting professional mental health support and improving their total health.
In our survey, not only did we examine the profile and experience of those with a mental health issue, but we also examined how people cope with mental health. The following dashboard provides a high-level overview of some of the findings with respect to how people with mental health issues and illness reported they are coping.
What you can do within your organization and community is to help normalize mental health concerns and illnesses and the need for support, and advocate for those who may be experiencing mental health issues. If you have a mental health issue, consider your experience compared to the results we found. If you're concerned about your mental health, we encourage you to seek support from a mental health professional, have a conversation with a trusted loved one, or speak with an HR representative at work.
Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto and creator of an online Pathway to Coping course offered through the University of New Brunswick.
Jesse Adams is a senior consultant and lead of the Total Health Index (THI) analytics team at Morneau Shepell.
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Read more columns like this, and read about the winners and finalists of the 2017 Employee Recommended Workplace Award at tgam.ca/workplaceaward