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Almost half of working Canadians say they need mental health support

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The majority say  they are putting in more effort at work than before the pandemic

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Seven months in, nearly half (48%) of Canadian workers reported needing some form of mental health support, according to Morneau Shepell’s monthly Mental Health Index report.

The Index showed a 11.4-point decline from the pre-pandemic benchmark of 75, putting working Canadians back to near the lowest point in April 2020. Major contributing factors include a decline in work productivity and financial savings, as well as the divisive U.S. presidential election.

Additional findings include:

  • Respondents working in the Wholesale Trade Industry reported an increase in mental stress score (60.9) compared to the prior month.
  • The majority (41%) of respondents reported that they are putting in more effort at work than before the pandemic. These individuals also reported a lower mental health score (-12.0) than those who reported no change in work effort and those who put in less.
  • 38% of Canadian workers felt that the U.S. presidential election had a negative impact on their mental health, with this group also reporting the lowest mental health score (-16.7) across respondents.

READ: 6 tips to reduce employee stress

The score measures the improvement or decline in mental health from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75. The Mental Health Index also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring financial risk (2.5), psychological health (-2.5), isolation (-11.5), work productivity (-12.6), depression (-12.9), optimism (-13.0) and anxiety (-13.4).

In turn, nearly half (48%) of respondents reported needing some form of mental health support. The most commonly reported source of mental health support is from family members (24%), followed by support from friends or co-workers (20%) and support from a mental health professional (8%). Additionally, 9%of individuals reported needing support, but have not sought it. This group has, by far, the lowest mental health score (-33.9).

The score of -12.6 for work productivity is a decline that reverses modest gains over the summer, and brings us below where we were in June 2020 (-12.1). Another negative trend is evident in financial risk. For the second consecutive month, financial risk showed further decline after several months of improvement.

“COVID-19 continues to take a toll on the mental health of Canadians, and we are now approaching a point in the year when feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety will likely get worse,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. “The restrictions imposed to combat the second wave of the pandemic and the approaching cold weather are keeping Canadians indoors for longer periods of time. Organizations need to make a conscious effort to check back in with employees and review their mental health strategies, or risk detrimental and long-term impacts on business performance.”

“New workplace dynamics are influenced by what people are experiencing personally, now more than ever. The pandemic has had a significant impact on employees’ home, family and personal dynamics and work is impacted as well. Canadians have had to adapt to substantial changes in their routine and concerns about job and economic security, while at the same time finding news ways to keep a healthy work-life balance,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “At a minimum, each individual psychologically needs several things each day: a sense of accomplishment, social contact, fun, laughter and physical movement. Employers have a tremendous opportunity to encourage and support these healthy practices, which are part of building the resilience needed now and ongoing.”