Mental Health: The Connection Between Healthy Minds and Healthy Workplaces

Posted in: Mental Health,Safety,Workplace,Workplace Wellness | Posted by Rebecca Ingram on May 5, 2016

It is not really a coincidence that Mental Health Week and North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week overlap. Recent focus on the awareness and acceptance of mental illness and the effects that stress has on our overall wellbeing, highlights the connection between workplace safety and a psychologically healthy work environment.

Although NAOSH week focuses on all aspects of health and safety on the job, healthy minds are the foundation of healthy workplaces.  A balanced, stress-free mind is better able to focus on the task at hand, which helps reduce of the risk of accident or injury on the job for everyone.

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.

We all bring our own personal set of stressors to work with us, whether they are caused by physical, emotional, financial or situational factors.

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 designed to help organizations and its employees improve workplace mental health and safety.

The National Standard of Canada is titled Psychological health and safety in the workplace – Prevention, promotion and guidance to staged implementation, and it was released in January 2013. 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 may be (and 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 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, enhanced productivity and a decrease in time loss and 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.

More information on the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace can be found here and Workplace Strategies for Mental Health can be found here. If you would like further information on the benefits of a Psychological Health and Safety Management System for your organization, you can connect with us on Facebook , Twitter , or LinkedIn. You can reach us by email at [email protected], [email protected] and you can always contact us directly, during business hours, using our chat feature or by telephone at 1-844-377-9545.

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