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Mental Health

New Survey Suggests Mental Health Stigma Still Exists

— October 20, 2021

APA survey indicates employees who are experiencing mental health issues are afraid to speak up.

In a May 2021 survey by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), only one in five employees reported that their employer has offered to them additional mental health services since the onset of the pandemic.  This is down from 35% in 2020, indicating perhaps that some initial programs weren’t meant to be ongoing.  The number of employees who reported they can discuss mental health with coworkers with supervisors was around 56% (for both), which is a decrease from last year’s 65% and 62% respectively.  Therefore, while the pandemic is still raging on, employees are less likely to feel, now, that they can discuss the state of their mental health than they could at the beginning, and not only are employees unsure of how to get this type of care while working, but stigma surrounding the field still exists.

The APA administered a web-based survey of 1,000 telecommute employees between March 26 and April 5, 2021.  Most of these employees said they experienced a negative mental health impact related to the ‘new normal,’, including “isolation, loneliness and difficulty getting away from work at the end of the day,” according to the results.

Only “one in five” (or 20%) responded that their employer has offered additional services, down from “35% in 2020.”  When it comes to feeling as if employers are currently supportive of mental health needs, “28%” said their employer became “more supportive over the course of the pandemic” while “33%” said there was no change and “9%” responded they felt “less supported.”

New Survey Suggests Mental Health Stigma Still Exists
Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

“It’s not surprising that in light of the pandemic that mental health is on peoples’ and employers’ minds,” said APA President Vivian Pender, M.D., adding and addressing the stigma, “What’s worrisome is that given this discussion, many people, particularly younger people, are still worried about retaliation if they take time off for mental health.  This is stigma in action, and it has to stop.”

In fact, more than “four in 10 employees” are concerned about retaliation by their supervisors if they seek mental health care or take time off.  The survey revealed that younger workers are most concerned perhaps because they are new employees or just getting their careers off the ground.  Approximately “59% of employees 18 to 29 years old and 54% of employees 30 to 44 years old” are “somewhat to very concerned about retaliation or being fired.”  Those who are older than this, however, are still significantly concerned with the survey indicating “39% of those 45 to 64” feel the same way.

Nearly two-thirds of individuals have been working at home since the onset at the pandemic and report feeling isolated or alone “at least sometimes” – with “17% all the time.”  Having to manage additional responsibilities from home can also lead to poor work life balance and difficulties separating personal and professional responsibilities.  More than “two-thirds” of employees who work from home report they “have trouble getting away from work at the end of the day” – marking “always (22%)” or “sometimes (45%).”  With there being no end in sight, these numbers are especially troubling.


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As Americans Begin to Return to the Office, Views on Workplace Mental Health Are Mixed

APA 2021 Public Opinion Poll: Workplace

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