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Discrimination biggest barrier to treating mental illness

Discrimination against mental illness in the workplace is the biggest obstacle preventing people from getting proper help, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

"The biggest barrier to people getting help is the stigma that they feel or assume will be attributed to them if they reach out for help," said Bev Gutray, executive director of CHMA B.C. division.

CMHA co-sponsored The Bottom Line, a conference focused on how businesses and employees can break the stereotypes around mental illness, in Vancouver yesterday.

Gutray told The Tyee that people who suffer from mental illness today are more likely to seek aid than in the past. Although mental illness has a big impact on productivity, the workplace is often the last place where people will ask for help, especially during hard financial times.

"If you're in an environment where you see parts of your workplace shutting down or jobs going from permanent positions to contract positions and you're struggling with your own mental health, the likelihood is you're going to hold that internally and you're going to cope the best you can at work," Gutray said.

She added that educating employers and employees about mental illness is the only solution to break the stigma associated with it

"What needs to happen is we need broad workplace education, we need to train managers to be able to talk to their employees when they see changes and for employees not to be fearful that bad things are going to happen if I tell my boss or tell my colleague," said Gutray.

This is the 7th year the Bottom Line conference has been addressing mental health and mental health discrimination.

Morgan J. Modjeski reports for the Hook

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