It’s estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime and according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, every week more than 500,000 Canadians will miss work due to mental health problems, costing our economy $16 billion annually. In light of this, it’s to the advantage of all businesses to not only be concerned about the mental health of their employees, but also to give them the tools they need to help them maintain the right balance. Here are a few ideas.
What do we mean by “mental health?”
The World Health Organization defines mental health as being “a state of wellbeing in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
1. Focus on raising awareness and engagement
The stigma surrounding mental illness is one of the main obstacles faced by individuals struggling with mental health issues. One way to put an end to this stigma is to start the conversation in the workplace and keep it going.
- Check out the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, which is a set of guidelines, tools and resources for promoting mental health in the workplace.
- Dedicate a section of your intranet site to mental health resources (guides, videos, services, etc.).
- Regularly publish articles promoting healthy lifestyle habits in your internal communication tools.
2. Offer employee support services
Increasing employee support helps create a work environment that is centred on their wellbeing.
- Adopt a workplace civility policy to foster a healthy work atmosphere.
- Set up an employee assistance program and advertise it.
- Foster a work atmosphere that values cooperation, support and accommodation.
3. Offer training activities and conferences
Training is an effective lever for changing mentalities and perceptions of mental illness.
- Train your employees on various ways of maintaining balance and supporting their colleagues.
- Train your managers so that they have the tools they need to properly deal with mental health issues in their team.
- Organize lunch and learn sessions with experts to demystify mental health matters.
4. Measure performance
As the saying goes, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Adopt performance indicators to evaluate your progress (utilization rate of employee assistance program, decrease in short-term disability benefits, number of employees trained, number of events organized, etc.) and to change tack, if need be.
Lastly, another way of engaging your employees is to invite them to join the conversation on mental health during Bell Let’s Talk Day, taking place this year on January 30, when everyone is invited to join the conversation about mental health by sending messages of support to drive awareness and action in mental health.
About the author
Marie-Hélène Favreau is the Director, Mental Health, Workplace Practices and Disability Management at Bell. She has worked in the public and private sectors as a manager, an emergency doctor and a medical health officer. She still works as a family doctor part time.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal. As a result, the Chamber cannot be held responsible for published content.