Canadians wary of disclosing mental health issues, says survey



Even though more Canadians are recognizing depression and anxiety as disabilities compared to last year, a stigma around mental health still exists, according to a recent RBC Insurance survey.

Three quarters of working Canadians say they would either be reluctant to admit (48 per cent) or would not admit (27 per cent) to a boss or co-worker that they are suffering from a mental illness. As well, the proportion who say they would not admit they were suffering from a mental illness is almost three times as high as it is for a physical illness (27 per cent vs. 10 per cent).

Fear of negative consequences

The main reasons for either not admitting or being reluctant to admit a mental illness include public stigma, not wanting to be treated differently and fear of negative consequences such as losing their job.

“It’s encouraging to see that Canadians are making the connection between mental illness and disability, most likely because of educational efforts and the openness of those who are willing to share their personal struggles,” said Maria Winslow, senior director, Life & Health, RBC Insurance. “However, it’s apparent that the perception of stigma still exists, which impedes some people’s ability or willingness to speak up and seek help.”

According to the survey, about 75 per cent believe disclosing a mental illness would have a negative impact on their own personal wellbeing. Six in 10 or more believe it would have a negative impact on their relationships with family (66 per cent), productivity at work (65 per cent), relationships with friends (64 per cent) and relationships with co-workers (64 per cent). Over half (57 per cent) believe it would negatively impact how quickly they can return to work following a leave.

“Canadians fear repercussions if they admit to a mental illness, which may prevent them from getting the help they need,” added Winslow. “However, if left untreated, a mental illness can ultimately have greater consequences if it leads to job loss and financial strain, particularly if an individual doesn’t have adequate [insurance] coverage in place.»