TORONTO, June 20, 2011 /CNW/ - When it comes to mental health issues in
Canadian workplaces, misinformation, fear and prejudice remain far too
prevalent. Canadian organizations have taken some steps to remove
stigmas associated with mental health issues. Yet employees remain
concerned about disclosing a mental health issue to their employer,
according to a Conference Board study released today at the 2011
Workplace Mental Health Conference in Toronto.
"Mental health is a significant business issue that requires the
attention of organizations. People who experience mental health issues
face incredible challenges in the workplace. Many are misunderstood,
shunned and underutilized," said Karla Thorpe, Associate Director,
Compensation and Industrial Relations. "In a world where shortages of
critical skills are top of mind for many organizations, employers
cannot afford to allow this situation to continue."
The report, Building Mentally Healthy Workplaces: Perspectives of Canadian Workers
and Front-Line Managers, provides a national perspective on Canadians' work environment and the
degree to which it supports their mental well-being. The study
identifies four areas for organizational action: education and
communication, workplace culture, leadership, and managerial skills and
A survey of more than 1,000 Canadians revealed that mental health issues
are prevalent in their workplaces. Forty-four (44) per cent of the
employees surveyed reported they were either currently (12 per cent) or
had previously (32 per cent) personally experienced a mental health
issue. For this study the definition of a mental health issue was very
broad and included: excessive stress, anxiety, depression, burnout,
addictions and substance abuse, mania, bipolar disorder, and
schizophrenia, among others.
In addition to the effects of mental health on individuals,
organizations are also feeling the financial costs. In 2009-2010, 78
per cent of short-term disability claims and 67 per cent of long-term
disability claims in Canada were related to mental health issues.
However, most survey respondents said they would feel uncomfortable
speaking to their manager, union representative or a colleague if they
experienced a mental health issue. Respondents fear that making such a
disclosure would jeopardize their chances for promotion (54 per cent)
and future success (38 per cent) in their organizations.
Managers play a critical role in supporting employees, and a majority of
the managers surveyed said they are informed about mental health
issues. Yet, many are ill equipped to help employees—only 26 per cent
of surveyed employees felt that their supervisor "effectively manages
mental health issues". A full 44 per cent of managers have had no
training on how to manage employees with mental health issues. Managers
want, and need, more workplace training in order to bridge this gap.
There is also a major disconnect between the perceptions of executives
and non-management employees about the degree to which their workplaces
promote mental health. While 82 per cent of senior executives surveyed
stated that their company promotes a mentally healthy work environment,
only 30 per cent of employees who work in such occupations as service,
labour, and production agree. Just 36 per cent of employees report that
senior management openly discusses the importance of mental health.
The four areas where organizations can take action are:
Focusing on education and communication to reduce fear, stigma and
discrimination in the workplace;
Ensuring the organizational culture is conducive to supporting
employees' mental health;
Encouraging senior executives to show demonstrable leadership around
mental health; and
Building managers' capacity to support employees by providing the tools
and training required in their role.
The findings are based on a January 2011 survey of 1,010 individuals
currently employed on either a part-time or full-time basis, including
479 front line managers. The research is supplemented with a total of
30 follow-up in-depth interviews. The study was sponsored by Bell
Canada, Manulife Financial, Morneau Shepell, Canada Post Corporation,
and TD Bank Group.
The report is available at www.e-library.ca.
SOURCE CONFERENCE BOARD OF CANADA
For further information:
Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: 613-526-3090 ext. 448