Browsing School of Social Work by Title "Stigma as a barrier to the use of Employee Assistance Programs"
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Stigma as a barrier to the use of Employee Assistance ProgramsAn Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be an impactful workplace benefit, but not all employees will access one in a time of need. One potential but rarely studied barrier to the use of EAPs is perceived stigma. This study by Workreach Solutions investigated the association between worker perceptions of stigma and the likelihood of accessing an EAP for distressing personal problems in a representative sample of employed Canadians (N=1001). A number of insights emerged from the study, one being that an important proportion of workers reported perceptions of stigma in relation to receiving help from EAP counselling services (EAP treatment stigma). Further, workers with greater perceptions of mental health stigma reported greater EAP treatment stigma, and perceptions of stigma in relation to EAPs reduced the self-reported likelihood of their use. The study concluded that worker perceptions of stigma can be considered a barrier to the use of EAPs, a phenomenon similar to that observed with other psychological or mental health services. Some workers who could benefit from an EAP might choose not to use one due to perceived stigma in relation to receiving help. The findings also suggested that stigma may help explain gender-based patterns of EAP utilization, generally involving lower use by men workers. Workplace interventions aimed at reducing employee perceptions of stigma could increase use of EAPs and by proxy help to improve organizational health.