Strong emotions of shame and embarrassment often prevent Canadians from addressing personal financial struggles, according to a recent study called Emotional Barriers to Financial Wellness conducted on behalf of Toronto-based Manulife Financial Corp.

In fact, 46% of mental health counsellors surveyed say it’s difficult for individuals suffering from financial health issues to disclose those concerns to others due to shame and embarrassment. This finding is significant because 74% of counsellors believe personal finances have a high impact on emotional and mental health.

If Canadians are experiencing financial troubles, feelings of shame and embarrassment can lead to a perpetual cycle of mental and physical health problems. That, in turn can have a negative impact on their quality of life and productivity at work, the report says.

“The stigma, shame and embarrassment of being financially unwell often prevents people from taking action to address and overcome these issues,” says Sue Reibel, executive vice president and general manager of group benefits and retirement solutions at Manulife, in a statement.

“We believe that the industry as a whole has a bigger role to play in helping remove these stigmas. Only once an individual is comfortable discussing their own money problems, can they begin to take steps to address them,” she adds.

When Canadians do seek support from counsellors, approximately half of the time financial challenges are an underlying part of the topics they want to address. However, Canadians don’t always make a connection between their finances and mental health. Specifically, only one in three counsellors see clients make a connection between their finances and other life problems.

“Our industry can help remove [financial] stigmas by encouraging those going through financial challenges to discuss these problems more openly, and to take advantage of free and accessible tools that help alleviate financial distress, which can lead to anxiety, depression and stress,” Reibel adds.

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