Worker attitudes towards mental health problems and disclosure

Int J Occup Environ Med. 2014 Oct;5(4):175-86.


Background: There is a significant proportion of workers with mental disorders who either are struggling at work or who are trying to return to work from a disability leave.

Objective: Using a population-based survey of working adults in Ontario, Canada, this paper examines the perceptions of workers towards mental disorders in the workplace.

Methods: Data are from a sample of 2219 working adults identified through random digit dialing who either completed a telephone questionnaire administered by professional interviewers or a web-based survey.

Results: A third of workers would not tell their managers if they experienced mental health problems. Rather than a single factor, workers more often identified a combination of factors that would encourage disclosure to their managers. One of the most identified disincentives was the fear of damaging their careers. The most pervasive reasons for concerns about a colleague with a mental health problem included safety and the colleague's reliability.

Conclusion: Although critical for workers who experience a mental disorder and who find work challenging, a significant proportion do not seek support. One barrier is fear of negative repercussions. Organizations' policies can create safe environments and the provision of resources and training to managers that enable them to implement them. By making disclosure safe, stigma and the burden of mental disorders in the workplace can be decreased.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Career Mobility
  • Fear
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology*
  • Ontario
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Return to Work / psychology
  • Social Class
  • Stereotyping
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Truth Disclosure*
  • Workplace / psychology
  • Young Adult