Mental illness has affected the lives of half of all Canadians, according to the results of Sun Life Financial's recent national survey that asked Canadians about their experiences with mental health.
The survey found that 37 per cent of Canadians have suffered from anxiety; and 30 per cent report having dealt with depression. Millennials, ages 20 to 34, are most likely to report mental health concerns (63 per cent), followed by Generation X (50 per cent) and Late Boomers (41 per cent).
Open the lines of safe communication
“The numbers speak for themselves – many Canadians say they have experienced a mental health issue in their life. To get at the heart of the issue, we need to open the lines of safe communication and work together to remove barriers,” said Jacques Goulet, President, Sun Life Financial Canada in a May 16 statement. “Connect with your personal support network, speak with your family physician, or tap into your workplace mental health benefits – these are some of the ways to find help that’s right for you.”
Mental health in the workplace
The Sun Life survey found that only 28 per cent of working Canadians living with a mental health issue have spoken to their employer about it. This compares with 56 per cent of Canadians who have had a conversation about a serious physical issue with their employer.
"It’s clear that social stigma still surrounds mental health across Canada,” said Dave Jones, Senior Vice-President, Group Benefits, Sun Life Financial. "People spend a big part of their day at work; they simply can’t put aside their mental health issues while they are on the job. Employers have the opportunity to make a difference on this national issue. Creating a safe and supportive environment and offering tools and resources that support mental health and well-being can help employees overcome these challenges.”
The survey also revealed that many Canadians do not seek help when suffering from mental illness. Twenty seven per cent did not speak to a health professional about what they were going through with Millennials (33 per cent) being least likely to talk to a health professional, followed by Generation X (27 per cent) and pre-boomers (23 per cent).
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
“We’re socialized to view mental illnesses differently than physical illnesses,” said Dr. Sam Mikail, Clinical Psychologist, Sun Life Financial. “Many people struggle to describe what they are experiencing when faced with a mental health issue. It’s easier to talk about a sore back than what’s on your mind. Know that you’re not alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help; speaking with your primary care physician or healthcare professional is a good first step.”
For those experiencing a mental health issue, Dr. Mikail offered a few recommendations: Invest in time with your loved ones and people you enjoy being around; exercise and focus on a healthy diet; learn more about your workplace’s employee assistance program and mental health support tools and ask for help when you need it. “Your primary care physician can help with what you’re going through and find a treatment that suits your needs.”