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Serving individuals with mental health disabilities requires ‘out of the box’ thinking

June 15, 2016

Many people know some way to accommodate an individual living with a physical disability but would you know how to accommodate someone living with a mental health disability?

Think Outside the Box is a one-of-a-kind, free online resource designed to help employers, businesses, human resources professionals, landlords, the service industry, and anyone else looking to learn more about mental health accessibility and disability accommodation.

Created by Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario, Think Outside the Box offers real-life stories of individuals living with a mental health disability and how schools, employers and government have accommodated them.

The resource also offers nine tips that can positively impact both the person with the disability and the organization that serves or employs them. Click on each link to learn more:

1) Focus on the person, not the disability

2) Challenge your own thinking

3) Protect confidentiality

4) Be flexible as needs vary

5) Identify and remove socio-economic barriers

6) Find effective ways to communicate

7) Welcome mental health service animals

8) Welcome support persons

9) Partner with individuals with mental health disabilities or organizations that support them

“When we think about disabilities, we often only think about visible physical disabilities. People are familiar with the importance of ramps and wider doorways but they may not know where to start when it comes to accommodating a person living with a mental health disability. This resource will help tremendously,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario.

Mandi Buckner is a workplace consultant specializing in mental health. She works with individuals who are off work due to a mental health challenge and also educates employers and employees on mental health recovery, communication and accommodation strategies. She’s also a person with lived experience having left a 27-year career in the financial industry after experiencing depression in the workplace.

“The problem with understanding mental health accessibility is that there aren’t enough resources available to the public. Think Outside the Box is a tool that employees or their employers can equally benefit from to help people return to work in a meaningful and productive manner,” said Buckner.

People living with mental health and addictions disabilities have rights protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code). Today’s launch coincides with the anniversary of the Code, which took effect on June 15, 1962.

“We need to understand the lived experience of people with mental health disabilities and we need to apply this understanding in innovative ways so that people with mental health disabilities don’t face barriers, can be included, can contribute, and can thrive,” said Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“The Commission is proud to have been one of many partners of this important project, that shares what’s working, and inspires us all to consider what is possible.”

Fast facts:

  • In any given year, one in five people in Canada experiences a mental health problem or illness.
  • Mental health problems and illnesses are rated one of the top three drivers of both short-  and long-term disability claims by more than 80 per cent of Canadian employers.
  • Mental health problems and illnesses account for more than $6 billion in lost productivity costs due to absenteeism and presenteeism.

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