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Feeling depressed? It could be your job

Ever feel like work is getting you down? If so, you're not alone. It appears a good chunk of Canadians say their workplace fuels feelings of depression, anxiety and other mental illness, according to an Ipsos Reid poll.

Two in 10 working Canadians, excluding self-employed workers, say their place of work is a frequent (11 per cent) or ongoing (5 per cent) source of strife. Nearly 15 per cent say work causes these feelings several times a year, while another 33 per cent experience them more infrequently. On the flip side, four in 10 people workers say work never gets them down.

Overall, nearly half of Canadians surveyed say work and the workplace is the most stressful part of their day.

The data also reveals that there continues to be a lingering stigma against mental illness in the workplace, with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying they would not likely talk to their bosses openly about their mental illness.

That stigma can translate into poor worker productivity, said Heather Stuart, a professor at Queen's University, who is an expert in anti-stigma research around mental illnesses.

"It is a huge factor. Most people who have depression and anxiety are in the workforce," said Stuart, who is also senior consultant at the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

"People will be afraid to disclose the fact that they have an illness so they'll come to work and they'll put on a facade that they're working hard. But in fact their productivity is less. So they kind of drag themselves in every day and their illness is interfering with the ability to function at their desk."

Stuart says employers can take steps to address potential issues in the workplace that include making sure that managers are trained and have processes in place to address issues, as well as have plans in place to help workers transition back to the job.

Just how much does it affect the bottom line?

Some $51 billion annually, says Jeff Moat, president of Partners for Mental Health, the national charitable organization that commissioned the Ipsos survey.

It is estimated mental health problems and illnesses are the leading cost of productivity loss in Canada, with an estimated 35 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems and illnesses. Some 20 per cent of all sick leaves are due to mental health problems and illnesses, the group said.

"Regardless of what number you choose to hang your hat on, the reality is it's in the billions," said Moat.

"Anything businesses can do to improve the psychological health and safety of their work environment will ultimately translate into happier employees, more productive employees, better employee retention, and all these things will ultimately translate into a better bottom line."

The online survey was conducted between April 18-24 on 1,058 working Canadians.

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