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More than half (57 per cent) of Canadian employees and managers are currently suffering from a mental-health problem or sleeping disorder, or have done so in the past, according to new research by Morneau Shepell Ltd.

However, 27 per cent of employees and 32 per cent of managers surveyed said they’re able to go through their daily work routines in spite of mental-health issues. “There is a lot of depression that we do not see,” said Paula Allen, vice-president of research and analytic solutions at Morneau Shepell, at the company’s seventh annual workplace mental-health summit in Toronto on Wednesday.

Read: A primer on supporting employees with mental illnesses

This high-functioning depression often manifests among people who take on elevated responsibilities, said Allen. It can be difficult to identify when symptoms include seemingly positive qualities such as perfectionism and intense drive, she noted.

As well, managers are less likely to seek help for themselves, said Allen. “Because you’re the problem solver, you tend to think you can deal with the problem yourself.”

For younger managers, this type of mental-health issue can coincide with an increased likelihood of feeling isolated, said Allen. Indeed, Morneau Shepell’s survey found 61 per cent of people under age 35 have experienced isolation, which is a chronic problem specific to that age group, noted Allen.

“A number of us are putting young people in very significant roles,” said Allen. “But what are we doing to support them? They haven’t had those years of experience.”

Read: Sounding Board: Management style, employee expectations key to supporting mental health

The research also found that organizational stress is the highest stress factor for Canadians, with 40 per cent of managers surveyed and 34 per cent of employees reporting they have suffered from extreme stress over the last six months. And these levels of stress can affect retention, as 20 per cent of managers and 18 per cent of employees said they would be likely to leave their organization due to a high workplace stress situation.

Women are more likely to be under higher levels of workplace stress than their male peers, according to the research. And employees in Ontario (41 per cent) are the most likely to report high levels of stress, followed by Manitoba and Saskatchewan (38 per cent) and Alberta (36 per cent). Fewer employees (31 per cent) in Atlantic Canada reported high levels of stress, as did respondents in Quebec, British Columbia and the territories (29 per cent, respectively).

Read: How employees cope more impactful than the stress they’re under: report

The research also found that stress levels correlate strongly with productivity. Around a quarter of employees (24 per cent) and managers (23 per cent) have dealt with stress by using vacation or sick days. Employees (34 per cent) and managers (52 per cent) under the age of 34 are the most likely to mitigate stress this way.

“Productivity and stress often have a tenuous relationship, yet many organizations are still having difficulty managing engagement and productivity due to mental-health concerns,” said Allen, in a press release. “Only 16 per cent of employees felt their organizations were strong across all four key areas of support: resources for distress, support for family issues, coping skills development and preventative measures. This presents a clear opportunity for Canadian organizations.”

If employers are looking for the areas most in need of improvement, the survey found that employer efforts to help employees develop coping skills are lacking, said Allen at the event. Employers can also do better at preventing the risk of serious workplace stress, she added.

Read: Petting zoos touted as way to reduce workplace stress, boost staff morale

Copyright © 2021 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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