Leadership

Are Your Employees Afraid to Talk About Depression?

A new survey suggests workers often hide their diagnoses for fear of negative reactions

Written by Murad Hemmadi

If an employee needs to take time off for chemotherapy sessions, an employer is usually obliging. But what happens if an employee is diagnosed with depression? Can that employee take time off or be excused for missing deadlines, being irritable or blaming others for problems?

According to a new Ipsos-Reid North American survey on depression, 80% of both Canadians and Americans believe that “depression is a life-threatening illness.” And 84% of respondents think that helping employees with mental illness should be a priority for human resources departments.

Yet 79% think that if an employee did suffer from depression she would hide the fact to avoid hurting potential career opportunities. And almost 50% think that if an employee is absent as a result of her depression, she would likely “get into trouble and maybe even fired.”

But varying ideas about mental illness and the workplace should not deter employers from implementing some kind of program. So why aren’t businesses doing so? Donna Hardaker, a community mental health analyst at the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, says in her experience managers want to do the right thing but because they’re so afraid to do something wrong, they end up doing nothing at all.

But even if managers fear doing the wrong thing, they should still make an effort, not only for their employees but also for their business. Mental illness in the workplace can cost Canadian businesses $33 billion annually, according to the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health.

Canadian and American scientists and business executives will delve into this concern, and many others, at the first-ever U.S.-Canada forum on mental health in Ottawa this fall.

This article originally appeared at Benefits Canada.

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com