Study Speaks to Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace

frustrated office workerEvery year, about one in four Americans experiences a mental health issue such as depression, addiction, or posttraumatic stress. These conditions often necessitate time off from work to focus on treatment and well-being, but telling your boss you have a mental health condition isn’t always easy.

According to a study by the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), more than a third of workers wouldn’t tell their manager if they had a mental health issue, even though the same workers said they’d be happy to help a colleague struggling with mental health concerns.

Would You Share Your Mental Health Issues with a Manager?

The research team, led by CAMH senior scientist Dr. Carolyn Dewa, surveyed 2,219 Ontario workers about their views on workplace mental health. The surveys asked participants if they would tell a manager if they experienced a mental health issue. Researchers also inquired as to whether participants were concerned that a colleague with a mental health issue might not be able to perform his or her job well.

Thirty-eight percent of workers reported they wouldn’t tell a manager if they had a mental health issue. Among this group, half reported they were concerned that revealing such information would affect their careers. Thirty percent believed that sharing mental health issues was unnecessary, claiming that mental health concerns wouldn’t necessarily affect their work. Others cited concerns about losing friends or bad experiences others had when sharing a mental health issue with a manager.

Among those who would share their experiences with a manager, respondents were more likely to report a positive relationship with their manager. This suggests that employer policies that educate about mental health and provide support to those with mental health concerns could help undermine workplace mental health stigma. Such stigma may discourage people from seeking treatment, increase anxiety, and even lead to discrimination against those with mental health issues.

Workplace Attitudes Toward People with Mental Health Issues

Responses to questions about how workers would react if a colleague had a mental health issue suggest mixed views on mental health. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they’d be concerned if a colleague had a mental health issue. Forty percent of these respondents highlighted concerns about the way mental health issues might affect workplace safety and employee reliability. Fifty percent, though, said they’d be concerned because they’d want to help a colleague who struggled with mental health.

References:

  1. Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.thekimfoundation.org/html/about_mental_ill/statistics.html
  2. Would you tell your manager you had a mental health problem? (2015, January 26). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150126112344.htm

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  • tiffany a.

    tiffany a.

    January 28th, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    I am so fortunate to work in the medical field where I think that there is probably a little better understanding of mental health issues than there may be at other jobs. So yes, I would feel comfortable with talking to my direct manager if there was an issue going on that I felt like I was having trouble handling, even if this involved my mental health situation. I don’t think that where I work, and I know that I am very lucky, but I really don’t think that there is any of that stigma that you may see other places.

  • Harold M

    Harold M

    January 28th, 2015 at 2:15 PM

    It is possible you benefit from calling someone’s prejudice against another “stigma”, but I am puzzled at what the profit to you is.

    Perhaps you can explain it.

    Harold M, retired mental health editor

  • Adam

    Adam

    January 28th, 2015 at 2:17 PM

    I guess that much of this depends on the type of company that you work for as well as the type of people who are in charge.
    I think that there are many places today that are very open minded and understanding about things like this, way more so than what you used to find. But I also think that there are places where you have to be careful how much you share and with whom you choose to share that information because it can stand in the way of a promotion or doing as well as you could.

  • Cody

    Cody

    January 29th, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    I just can’t imagine working somewhere where I did not feel like there was trust and support no matter the problem

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