In any given week, more than half a million Canadians will be absent from work because they’re struggling with their mental health. Seventy per cent of disability costs are related to mental illness. By the year 2020, depression will rank second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide. The need to address mental health in the workplace is relevant now more than ever. But a big question employers and employees still have is, “how?”
“Stress, anxiety and mood disorders like depression are the most common mental health problems that impact the workplace,” said Mark Henick, program manager for Mental Health Works, (MHW) a social enterprise of the Canadian Mental Health Association and leader in workplace mental health education since 2001. “It’s important for the employee to reach out and ask for help, but it’s equally important for employers, manager and supervisors to better understand mental health issues and develop approaches to intervene at any stage of a problem.”
The issue of workplace mental health has come a long way in the past decade, said Henick. In response, MHW has updated its tools and is launching a newly modernized curriculum today. With plain language and accessible teaching techniques, MHW equips people with practical tools to build awareness and respond to mental health issues, while also helping to achieve the goals of the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.
To mark Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month (Oct. 1-31), MHW offers these practical tips for everyone in the workplace.
Employers, managers, supervisors
- Look for Signs –Sudden behaviour changes, consistent late arrivals/absences, decreased productivity, making excuses for missed deadlines/poor work, and displays of anger/defensiveness may indicate a potential mental health issue.
- Talk About It – Arrange to meet an employee to raise concern and offer help. Beforehand, find out what resources – such as Employee Assistance Programs or community services – may be available and have information handy when you meet.
- Build Comfort – You want to minimize stress, not contribute to it. It’s important to talk about how the employee is valued before raising concern. Think about an individual’s strong points and contributions they’ve made. Be honest, upfront professional and caring in your approach.
- Talk to your doctor –1 in 5 people will experience a mental health problem this year but only a third will seek help. Depression is treatable, and most people who receive the right supports recover fully.
- Connect with a professional – Combining professional counselling with medical treatment is generally more effective than only doing one or the other. A psychologist, a psychotherapist, or a social worker has specialized training to help you learn new coping skills. Most EAP and benefit plans will provide access to these services.
- Reach out to those you trust – Close personal connections are one of the most powerful healing and protective tools to combat depression. Tell a family member, friend, or co-worker exactly what you need. It may be simply to listen, provide encouragement when you’re down, or doing things together that you enjoy.
- Live well – Exercise, sleep, and healthy eating are some of the first things to be compromised when experiencing depression. However, research shows that it works the opposite way too. Making conscious choices to lead a healthier lifestyle – especially when you don’t feel like it – can boost your mood.
For more practical tips, contact MHW program manager Mark Henick, a dynamic speaker and mental health advocate with direct experience of stigma and the mental health care system. He has dedicated his life to opening minds and creating change about mental health and mental illness.
About Mental Health Works (MHW):
Mental Health Works is a national social enterprise of the Canadian Mental Health Association, with head office at CMHA Ontario Division. MHW began in 2001 as a partnership research project. In 2004 Mental Health Works began offering products and services to the business community and the response from our clients has been well received. MHW is dedicated to advancing the field of workplace mental health through skills-enhancement training, awareness education and stigma reduction efforts.
About Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA):
Founded in 1918, CMHA is one of the oldest voluntary organizations in Canada. Each year, we provide direct service to more than 100,000 Canadians through the combined efforts of more than 10,000 volunteers and staff across Canada in over 120 communities. CMHA Branches across the country offer a range of innovative services and supports to people experiencing mental illness and their families. One of the core goals of these services is to help people with mental illness develop the personal tools to lead meaningful and productive lives.
For more information, contact:
Program Manager, Mental Health Works
T: 416-977-5580 ext. 4120
Communications Director, CMHA Ontario
T: 416-977-5580 ext. 4141