Mental Health in the Workplace – Tips and facts for a healthy workforce

Posted in: Mental Health,Safety,Workplace,Workplace Wellness | Posted by Rebecca Ingram on January 24, 2023

Canada will be activating a three-digit number for suicide prevention on November 30, 2023. If you’d like to know more about this, please visit the Government of Canada website. If you are in Canada and you, or someone you know, need help now, please continue to call 1.833.456.4566 any time, or text 45645 between 4 p.m. and midnight ET.

Blue Monday, possibly the saddest day of the year, was January 16th and Bell Let’s Talk Day is January 25th. We are heading into the depths of winter and into the fourth year of dealing with the physical, financial and emotional impact of the COVID pandemic. It’s no wonder everyone is talking about mental health. The recent focus on the awareness and acceptance of mental illness and the effects that stress has on our overall well being only highlights the connection between workplace safety and a psychologically healthy work environment.

‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Bell Let’s Talk Day’ serve as good reminders that we need to think and talk about mental health; our own, of those close to us and those we work with. The facts are staggering and the impact on our economy is significant:

  1. Mental illness is the leading cause of workplace disability in Canada.
  2. 1 out of every 5 Canadians will experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lives.
  3. In any given week, more than 500,000 Canadians will not go to work because of mental illness.
  4. More than half the people struggling with their mental health are not getting the help they need.
  5. Mental health problems and illnesses cost the Canadian economy at least $50 billion per year.

Especially in tough economic times, the effects of stress and the incidence of mental illness become more prevalent as our ability to cope is tested and our emotional reserves are strained. That healthy, balanced, stress-free mind becomes increasingly difficult to attain and maintain, so it is more important than ever to pay attention to not only our own mental health, but the psychological well-being of those around us.

Mental illness and stress affects every workplace, either directly or indirectly. Most people spend the greatest portion of their week in ‘work-mode’, which not only includes the hours actually working, but the time to travel to and from work, and the number of hours at the workplace. It is the aspect of our lives where we have the most unique and broadest spectrum of relationships; the place where we need to be understood and need to understand, to be supported and provide support, to be tolerant, compassionate and kind.

In response to the increasing attention of mental health in the workplace, the Mental Health Commission of Canada(MHCC), the Bureau de normalisation du Quebec (BNQ), and the Canadian Standards (CSA) Group joined forces to develop and release the first National Standard of Canada (the Standard). The first of its kind in the world, the Standard is a set of voluntary guidelines, tools and resources intended to guide organizations in promoting mental health and preventing psychological harm at work.

The Standard provides information and assistance with the development of policy, planning, implementation, evaluation, corrective action, management review and continual improvement of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System. It is focused on promoting employees’ mental health and preventing psychological harm due to workplace factors, including:

  • Identifying psychological hazards in the workplace
  • Assessing and controlling workplace risks associated with unavoidable hazards
  • Implementing practices that promote and support workplace psychological health and safety
  • Growing a culture that promotes and supports psychological health and safety in the workplace
  • Implementing a measurement and review system to ensure sustainability

We all bring our own personal set of stressors to work with us, whether they are caused by physical, emotional, financial or situational factors. Every workplace can be a cause of stress, whether it’s by difficult or toxic work relationships or by workload demands and expectations. There is no escaping it and even if you are in a particularly good space mentally, there likely is someone you work with that is not. Your ‘life stress’ affects your relationship with everyone around you, the same way that their ‘life stress’ affects you. How you manage that stress can have an impact on those around you and the environment in which you work. Applying the simple Bell Let’s Talk toolkit tips everyday can help:

  1. Pay attention to the words you use
  2. Educate yourself about the facts and myths surrounding mental illness
  3. Be kind. Even saying hi or small acts of kindness can make a difference
  4. Learn to listen. Sometimes that is all someone needs
  5. Talk about it. Not about them but mental illness in general. Starting a dialogue can make mental illness part of normal conversation

A positive approach to psychological health and safety in the workplace can result in increased employee engagement and retention, enhanced productivity and decreased time loss due to sick leave, ultimately improving a financial ‘bottom line’ for organizations, reducing the demand on the healthcare system and most importantly, contributing to the overall mental well-being of employees.

You can find more information on the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, Workplace Strategies for Mental Health and the Government of Canada: Mental health in the workplace websites. If you would like further information on the benefits of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System for your organization, you can use our live chat feature during business hours, email us at [email protected] or at [email protected], contact us directly at 1-844-377-9545 or you can always connect with us on our Facebook page, through our Twitter account, on our LinkedIn profile.

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