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A Canadian Perspective on Mental Wellness in the Workplace

Note: The statistics and information in this article are from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), a commission created by the federal government in 2007 with the goal of leading the development of initiatives that will improve the mental health of Canadians.

 

This week, 500,000 Canadians will miss work due to mental health issues. This year, 1 in 5 Canadians, over 7.5 million people, will be dealing with one of the common mental illnesses, with mood and anxiety disorders accounting for about 4 million of those people.

In young adults and students, aged 20-29, more than 28% will deal with a mental illness this year. Half of all students will end up using their campus’ mental health services. Among minority groups, such as members of the LGBTQ2S+ population, the numbers are even more alarming: 1 in 3 transgender youth attempted suicide in the past year.

In 2011, the MHCC found the total economic costs of mental health problems to be at least $50 billion, or 2.8% of the nation’s GDP. Mental illness in working adults cost Canadian employers over $6 billion, as a result of lost productivity. By 2040, the total costs of mental health issues in Canada will have added up to more than $2.5 trillion. In the workplace, mental illness is one of the top 3 drivers of disability claims, both long and short term, in over 80% of Canadian employers.

Mental health is a serious issue in Canadian society, and employers and employees can take action to combat the problem. The MHCC has identified 13 factors affecting psychological health in the workplace, which are outlined below. Hopefully you will notice a theme that two major contributors apply to each of the 13 factors: empathy and communication.

 

  1. Balance: Having a healthy work-life balance is important, therefore actively communicating with your employer, family, and friends is important to help manage said balance.
  2. Civility and Respect: Showing empathy and consideration for the perspectives of others, and acknowledging others’ dignity is important in the workplace, even if you don’t agree with their opinions.
  3. Clear Leadership and Expectations: Strong two-way communication ensures that employees understand what is being asked of them, reducing the stress that comes from unclear instructions or demands.
  4. Engagement: Making an effort to take a part in workplace events and activities, such as team-building exercises or sports teams, can contribute to a positive, cooperative workplace environment.
  5. Growth and Development: Proactive employees who seek opportunities to improve their skills and expertise will have higher workplace satisfaction as a result of being challenged.
  6. Involvement and Influence: Being open to sharing your opinion when requested, or offering alternative solutions to problems and discussing those suggestions helps employees feel valued and heard.
  7. Organizational Culture: Understanding how your behaviour and actions can affect the culture of the organization increases mindfulness and contributes to a positive workplace environment.
  8. Protection of Physical Safety: Feeling physically safe at work is essential for mental health, therefore making management aware of any physical health hazards is important.
  9. Psychological and Social Support: If you notice a drastic change in the behaviour of a co-worker, or notice that they are struggling, don’t be afraid to approach them to show that you care and are there to offer support.
  10. Psychological Demands: If you are feeling overwhelmed by work demands, maintain open communication with your supervisor to discuss additional support, or seek mentorship from someone who has managed similar demands and may offer guidance.
  11. Psychological Protection: Stand up for others when witnessing abuse or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace so all employees can feel safe at work.
  12. Recognition and Reward: Acknowledge and show appreciation for the contributions of others.
  13. Workload Management: Maintain open communication with your manager to discuss your workload and develop strategies to deal with it.

Photo credit to Dingzeyu Li