Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Mental Illness at Work: An Assessment of Co-Worker Reactions

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Mental Illness at Work: An Assessment of Co-Worker Reactions

Article excerpt


Guided by Colella, Paetzold, and Belliveau (2004), we surveyed 305 employees on their reactions towards coworkers with mental illness. Co-workers were less likely to view longer/more frequent work breaks as appropriate accommodations for the mentally ill relative to flexible hours, banking of overtime hours, and counselling. Moreover, employees who believed that co-workers with mental illness were being equitably (or fairly) treated at work were more likely to report that they would self-disclose-and seek assistance for-a mental illness. Finally, employees with workplace contact with the mentally ill were more likely to support hiring people with mental illness. Copyright © 2009 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

JEL classification: J71

Keywords: mental illness, accommodations, disability, co-worker, reaction


La présente étude examine, grâce au modèle proposé par Coletta, Paetzold et Belliveau (2004), les réactions des employés (n - 305) vis-à-vis des collègues souffrant de maladie mentale. Les résultats indiquent que les employés sont moins portés à considérer les congés plus fréquents/ longs comme des mesures d'adaptation appropriées par rapport à d'autres mesures telles que la flexibilité des horaires, l'accumulation des heures supplémentaires et l'aide psychologico-sociale. L'étude révèle aussi que les employés qui estiment que les travailleurs souffrant de maladie mentale sont traités équitablement sont plus enclins à révéler qu'ils ont une maladie mentale et à demander de l'aide. Enfin, les employés qui travaillent avec des malades mentaux sont plus favorables au recrutement de personnes souffrant de maladie mentale. Copyright © 2009 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Mots-clés : maladie mentale, mesures d'adaptation, l'infirmité, collègue, reaction

As organizations face an increasingly diverse labour force, workplaces incur challenges hiring, retaining, and accommodating productive employees. While numerous studies have examined workplace equity issues with respect to ethnicity, race, and gender (see Varca & Patti- son, 1993; Werner & Bolino, 1997), there are comparably many fewer studies on disability, and most of this work has focused on the United States (Stone-Romero, Stone, & Lukaszewski, 2006). Despite the lack of Canadian research, there is considerable popular interest in issues concerning the employment conditions of, and opportunities for, persons with disabilities in Canada given: (a) employment equity and human rights legislation, and (b) the projected shortage of labour given the aging Canadian workforce (Williams, 2006). It behooves organizations to better understand issues of mental illness in order to effectively manage mentally ill employees while adhering to legal standards (Health Canada, 2002). Moreover, with the impending shortage of labour, organizations will not be able to turn away capable workers (Williams).

Given this backdrop, we conducted a survey concerning mental illness. We chose mental illness because it is a global issue of public concern. In 2001, The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report estimating mat approximately 1 in 4 people, or 450 million people, have a mental illness and mat mental illnesses accounted for 4 of the top 10 leading causes of disability worldwide. Moreover, this report predicted that within the next 20 years, depression alone would be the second most prevalent disability in the world. As outlined in the WHO report, the socioeconomic impact of such illness is alarming. The economic costs of mental disorders and substance abuse in Ontario was 33.9 billion in 2000, of which 28.7 million represented losses in productivity (Gnam, Sarnocinska-Hart, Mustard, Rush, & Lin, 2006), while the total acute care costs for Canadian hospital stays related to mental and behavioural disorders were almost $25 million in 2004-05 (Canadian Institute for Healdi Information, 2008). …

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