Workplace violence Research/studies

Survey asks: Would you worry about safety if a co-worker had a mental illness?


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Toronto – More than 4 in 10 workers would worry about safety if a colleague reported having a mental illness, according to a study from Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Researchers surveyed more than 2,200 working-class adults in Ontario as part of the project. Respondents were asked two primary questions: Would you inform your manager if you had a mental health problem? And, if a colleague had a mental health problem, would you be concerned about how work would be affected?

Thirty-eight percent of workers said they would not tell their manager about a mental health problem, with more than half worried that such a decision might affect their careers. Meanwhile, 64 percent said they would be concerned if a worker had mental health problems, and more than 40 percent said they would have safety concerns regarding such a colleague.

The findings underscore the stigma that exists regarding mental illness, which in turn creates barriers for affected employees to seek helpful treatment, researchers said.

Dr. Carolyn Dewa, CAMH senior scientist, said in a Jan. 26 press release that safety concerns could be reduced through supportive workplace policies and procedures, as well as through a trusting relationship between an employee and his or her manager.

The study was published in the October 2014 issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.