Anti-Black racism awareness and response linked to Canadians' mental health

The experience of racism is traumatic and the ability to safely speak about it and problem solve is critical, and has been supported by many organizations.

Anti-Black racism awareness and response linked to Canadians' mental health

Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, showing a consistent negative mental health score in Canada for the fourth consecutive month. The findings show that the ongoing impact of COVID-19, coupled with the increased awareness and societal response to anti-Black racism, continue to affect the mental health of Canadians.

The Mental Health Index™ score is -10. The score measures the improvement or decline in mental health from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75. This month's overall score is one point higher than the score last month. The Mental Health Index™ also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring the risk of depression (-12.4), anxiety (-12.3), optimism (-11.4), work productivity (-11.1) and isolation (-11.0). While the sub-scores remain low, all areas have improved when compared to each previous month.

"July marks the fifth month since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic and Canadians began experiencing a collective mental health crisis," said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. "While many businesses, amenities and public spaces have reopened and a slight sense of normalcy has started to emerge across the country, our Mental Health Index™ shows that improving mental wellbeing takes time. In addition to restarting the Canadian economy, it's critical that organizations and governments continue to be vigilant in providing mental health support."

Strong correlation between Black Canadians' mental health and anti-Black racism awareness

The killing of Black American, George Floyd, initiated an international anti-Black racism awareness movement. The Mental Health Index™ found that overall, nearly 70 per cent of individuals believe that racism is a problem in Canada. Twenty (20) per cent believe that racism is a problem in their workplace. When comparing results by race, 62 per cent of individuals who identified as Black agreed or strongly agreed that racism is a problem in their workforce, compared to 14 per cent of individuals who identified as White.

Respondents who identified as Black showed a 1.8-point decrease in their Mental Health Index™ score between May and June, and a 0.9-point increase to -17.7 in July. Those who identified as White showed consistent improvement without the same decline in June, with a 1.2-point increase between May and June and a 1.8-point increase in July.

These results demonstrate that the most intense period of awareness and response to anti-Black racism corresponded with a decline in mental health scores among Black Canadians.  As the conversation on systemic racism continues the mental health score of Black Canadians is showing improvement. Looking forward, 40 per cent of all respondents feel that systemic racism is likely to decrease in Canada as a result of heightened anti-Black racism awareness, while 33 per cent are unsure and 27 per cent feel that systemic racism is unlikely to decrease.

"Systemic racism is not a new issue in Canada nor elsewhere, yet many Canadians are just now opening their eyes to the issue for the first time," said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. "The dialogue that has started recently is critical for social change as well as the wellbeing of individuals and organizations. The experience of racism is traumatic and the ability to safely speak about it and problem solve is critical, and has been supported by many organizations. The benefit of that is starting and needs to continue."

Majority of Canadians feel COVID-19 has not impacted personal relationships

The social effects of COVID-19 have been felt from coast-to-coast, with prolonged physical distancing and isolation measures leading Canadians to crave human interaction. Morneau Shepell's Mental Health Index™ found that with multiple restrictions, 30 per cent have experienced some change in their personal relationships since January 2020. Sixteen (16) per cent of respondents feel that there has been an improvement in their personal relationships, while 14 per cent feel their personal relationships have become more strained. In the workplace, one quarter (25 per cent) feel there has been a change in their relationships. Eleven (11) per cent report an improvement and 14 per cent indicate increased strain in their workplace relationships.  Those with no change in either personal relationships or workplace relationships have the highest Mental Health Index™ scores (-7.1 and -7.5 respectively), followed by positive change (-10.3 for improved personal relationship and -12.5 for improved workplace relationship). Those with a negative change in personal or workplace relationships have the lowest mental health scores (-27.7 for more strained personal relationship and -23.9 for more strained workplace relationships). The data demonstrates that the importance of stable relationships to mental health.

"Both personal and workplace relationships are important to wellbeing," said Allen. "In the workplace especially, relationships with coworkers are critical to feeling valued, recognized and having a sense of belonging. With many Canadians working and communicating entirely remotely, supporting workplace culture is more important than ever to ensure employee mental health remains a top priority."

About the Mental Health Index

The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey in English and French from June 22 to June 30, 2020, with 3,000 respondents in Canada. All respondents reside in Canada and were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population. The margins of error for the survey are +/- 3.2 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20. The Mental Health Index™ is published monthly, beginning April 2020, and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The full Canadian report can be found at: https://www.morneaushepell.com/permafiles/92896/mental-health-index-report-canada-july-2020.pdf

About Morneau Shepell

Morneau Shepell is a leading provider of technology-enabled HR services that deliver an integrated approach to employee wellbeing through our cloud-based platform. Our focus is providing world-class solutions to our clients to support the mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing of their people. By improving lives, we improve business. Our approach spans services in employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement consulting, actuarial and investment services. Morneau Shepell employs approximately 6,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in 162 countries. Morneau Shepell is a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: MSI). For more information, visit morneaushepell.com.