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Mental Health Strategies Needed In Canadian Workplaces

Ottawa, February 16, 2016—Mental health is often cited as a top reason for disability leaves of absence in Canadian workplaces, and previous research by The Conference Board of Canada has shown that the prevalence of mental illness was high among working Canadians. However, according to a new Conference Board survey of Canadian employers, less than half of Canada’s employers have a mental health strategy in place.

“Employers are increasingly turning their attention towards supporting mental health,” said Louise Chénier, Manager, Workplace Health and Wellness Research. “While many employers have mental health initiatives in place, a majority of them often lack a proactive mental health strategy that addresses the workplace risks that could negatively impact their employees’ health and wellness.”


  • Only 39 per cent of Canada’s employers have a mental health strategy in place.
  • Employers in the public sector were significantly more likely (47 per cent) than organizations in the private sector (33 per cent) to have indicated implementing a mental health strategy in their workplace.
  • A little over 30 per cent of employers cited a lack of knowledge on how to address mental health as a reason for not having implemented a mental health strategy.

The report finds that only 39 per cent of Canada’s surveyed employers have implemented a mental health strategy. Those employers who have not implemented a mental health strategy reported that this is due to:

  • limited financial resources, human resources, or time (56 per cent);
  • a lack of knowledge on how to address mental health (32 per cent);
  • mental health strategies are not a legal or legislative requirement (23 per cent); and
  • mental health is not an issue in their workplace (31 per cent).

Employers in the health, education, finance, insurance and real estate, public administration, and the utilities sectors are more likely to have implemented a mental health strategy. This may be due to the fact that the prevalence of mental health conditions was found to be higher in the service industries than in other industries. Employers in these industries might have had to support more employees with mental health issues and, as such, developed an approach to address these issues in the workplace.

Workplace Mental Health Strategy in Place, by Industry

On the other hand, employers in traditionally male-dominated industries, like transportation and warehousing, manufacturing, construction, and natural resources, are less likely to have implemented a mental health strategy.

In addition, the report finds that although 72 per cent of employers believe their programs effectively supported an employee experiencing a mental health issue; only 56 per cent believe that their programs proactively help employees maintain their mental health.

Healthy Brains At Work: Employer-Sponsored Mental Health Benefits and Programs is the second of a four-part series that explores the importance of addressing mental health and mental illness in Canadian workplaces. Based on a survey of 239 Canadian employers, it includes a detailed look at the prevalence of mental illness in the employed population, and addresses the role employers have in creating the conditions for a positive mental health environment.

The Conference Board of Canada will host a one-day conference related to this issue titled Healthy Canada: Healthy Brains Across the Lifespan on March 2, 2016 in Toronto.

This research was made possible through the financial support of Lundbeck Canada, Sun Life Financial, SCM Health Solutions, The Mental Health Commission of Canada, Canadian Depression Research Intervention Network, Mood Disorders Society of Canada and The Conference Board of Canada’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC).

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