Nearly 4 in 10 workers in a recent Canadian survey said they would not tell their manager if they had a mental health problem, study findings published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine indicate.
Among 2,219 working adults in Ontario who participated in the survey, 38% said they would not inform their manager of a psychiatric diagnosis, with more than half citing fear that it would effect their career as the reason.
“Stigma is a barrier to people seeking help. Yet by getting treatment, it would benefit the worker and the workplace, and minimize productivity loss,” study researcher Carolyn Dewa, MPH, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, said in a press release.
Witnessing bad experiences of others who had disclosed their mental illness, fear of losing friends, or a combination of these reasons, were among other rationale given for staying silent. However, 3 in 10 surveyed said they wouldn’t disclose their mental health status, because it wouldn’t affect their work performance.
Despite fear of stigma, about half of respondents said they would desire to help if they knew about a coworker’s illness. More than half, 64%, said they would be concerned if a coworker had mental illness, with more than 4 in 10 expressing concerns about reliability and safety in the work place.
To combat stigma, Dewa recommends organizations institute policies and procedures to support employees with mental illness, and facilitate supportive relationships between managers, employees, and coworkers.
“The manager’s position is so important, and it’s really important to invest in training them,” she said.
The research was conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital.