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Workplace stress an issue even during Summer’s dog days; Innovative Mental Health Works program can help

July 24, 2013

It might be vacation time for thousands of working Ontarians, but it’s not relaxing for everyone. Many colleagues left at the office or the factory floor may be anxious or overwhelmed because they’re thrust into unfamiliar jobs covering for people away on vacation.

Now imagine those same employees dealing with additional stresses like a death in the family, serious illness or other major life incident, and the strain of backfill could be even worse.

Mental Health Works – a national program housed at Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario that addresses workplace mental health issues – has a few suggestions to help those dealing with backfill stress.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate – It sounds obvious, but clear, early communication about expectations, key responsibilities and how to handle critical concerns will help reduce undue stress on colleagues and keep business running smoothly.
  • R and R – “Recognize and Reward” a colleague when they backfill for you. Everyone likes to feel valued for their efforts, especially when asked to go above and beyond their normal duties.
  • Watch for warning signs – Is a typically high-performing person showing decreased productivity? Are they causing accidents or safety problems? Making excuses for missing deadlines? Expressing strange or grandiose ideas? These could be signs they’re dealing with something with a mental health issue. Be on the lookout for these types of warning signs.

For more tips and advice about mental health in the workplace, visit Mental Health Works or interview national program manager Kathy Jurgens.

“Employers and employees shouldn’t hide from mental health issues in the workplace,” Jurgens said, adding that mental health and illness is estimated to cost the Canadian economy $6 billion annually in lost productivity. “A psychologically healthy workplace can lead to lower absenteeism, lower medical costs and higher productivity.”

Helping employers and employees identify and address workplace mental health issues is what Mental Health Works has been doing since 2004. To date, it has trained more than 14,000 people with more than 500 employers such as the City of Brampton, Region of Peel, Canadian Blood Services, and the Upper Canada District School Board.

Mental Health Works receives another accolade, this one from Health Council of Canada
The Health Council of Canada has this week recognized Mental Health Works as a “leading innovative practice” and has listed Mental Health Works in its online Health Innovation Portal. The portal features innovative health practices in a searchable database. The practices are evaluated and then determined to be “emerging,” “promising,” or “leading” in the field.

“Mental Health Works is a program that is consistent with the vision for our Health Innovation Portal, which gives Canadians a chance to discover and share innovative health care practices, programs and services from across the country,” said Health Council of Canada CEO John G. Abbott. “The portal’s resources help health care managers, providers, policymakers, and researchers identify practices that are working in Canada across key health care themes, so they can adapt them and put them into practice in their own settings.”

The Health Council of Canada notes that a strength of Mental Health Works is that it’s transferable across jurisdictions. The program has been implemented in the majority of Canada’s provinces and territories and in the U.S. (California). Discussions have also taken place with the UK and Australia.

Read the Health Council of Canada’s description of Mental Health Works.

About Mental Health Works:
Mental Health Works is a national program of the Canadian Mental Health Association that builds capacity within Canadian workplaces to effectively address the many issues related to mental health in the workplace. Since 2004, it has worked with more than 500 employers and trained more than 14,000 people. A psychologically healthy work environment supports employee engagement, worker health and well-being, recruitment and retention, productivity, effective risk management and corporate social responsibility.

About the Health Council of Canada’s Health Information Portal:
In November 2012, the Health Council of Canada launched the Health Innovation Portal so Canadians can learn about and share innovative health care practices, programs, services and policies from across the country. The Health Innovation Portal helps identify practices that are working in Canada, so they can be adapted and put into practice in various health care settings. A notable feature of the Health Innovation Portal is a searchable database of innovative practices that covers a range of health care themes with a user-friendly search function and customizable outputs.


For more information, contact:

Joe Kim Natalie Pavlenko
Communications Director Manager, Media Relations
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Health Council of Canada
416-977-5580, ext. 4141 416-480-7082; cell: 416-571-8912

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