Mental Health Matters: Of discrimination and mental illness
Before we begin, thank you for all the notes we received about last week’s column on bullying.
We received many positive and supportive messages and one person who felt the article focused too much on what the “victim is doing wrong.”
We appreciate and value all of our readers’ comments and we look forward to writing more on the topic of bullying as it is truly complex and there is no easy way for our limited space to do justice to more than one aspect at a time.
Until then, today’s topic relates to bullying in the sense that many adults with mental illness find they face discrimination or that they are treated differently than other people — or differently than before their mental illness was disclosed.
In many senses, this is a form of bullying, too.
For example, last week it was announced a study found 79 per cent of people with depression reported they had experienced some form of discrimination.
The research covered more than 1,000 subjects in 35 countries.
The discrimination took the form of avoidance and shunning from others, avoidance of close relationships and avoidance of work application in the fear of discrimination.
The study focused primarily on depression, and revealed 71 per cent of people wanted to conceal depression from others tending to prove the suspicion that people avoid treatment because of a fear of discrimination.
One outcome from the research was that many people who anticipated rejection or discrimination from close relationships or work found this did not happen.
About 45 per cent of the time, the fears of the depressed person turned out to be incorrect.
The fear of negative consequences for admitting symptoms of depression is hurting our society and our economy.
By avoiding the symptoms, people are absent from their jobs more often and for longer blocks of time.
By delaying the onset of treatment, the depressive episode is more debilitating and lasts longer — and this only feeds into the perception that people with depression or other mental illnesses are not good employees.
Like all mental illnesses, depression ranges in severity and impact.
According to Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, the Canadian stats are staggering:
• Mental illness is the second-leading cause of disability and premature death.
• On any given week, at least 500,000 are unable to work due to mental illness, including approximately 355,000 disability cases due to mental and/or behavioural disorders plus approximately 175,000 full-time workers absent from work due to mental-health issues.
• Mental health is the No. 1 cause of disability in Canada, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of disability claims and 70 per cent of the total costs
• $51 billion is the estimated cost of mental illness to the Canadian economy in terms of health care and lost productivity.
• $34 billion is the cost of mental illness and addictions to the Ontario economy alone.
• According to the World Health Organization, depression will be the single-biggest medical burden on health by 2020.
Are the stats on depression depressing?
Not at all!
Information is power and this should be a wake-up call for employers and individuals to own up to signs of depression and to be supportive to those who disclose it.
With openness comes better outcomes.
Until next time, thank you again for your notes and suggestions and you can continue to send your thoughts to Kamloops@cmha.bc.ca because we love to hear from you.