Commentary

Mental Health Week: The Importance of Advancing the Discussion

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Mental Health Week provides an important opportunity for all of us to revisit our efforts in how we can best support the mental health and wellbeing of Canadians.

Positive mental health allows us to cope with changes and difficult challenges in our day-to-day lives. This foundation is important because our mental health doesn’t just impact our personal relationships but can have a significant impact on our professional lives as well.

The pandemic has blurred the boundaries between our professional and personal lives, as employees worked from home, many simultaneously caring for children and other loved ones while living a more isolated lifestyle. As a result, our collective mental health was impacted. This impact was highlighted in a recent Statistics Canada survey that found one in four Canadians aged 18 or older had symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder in spring 2021, up from one in five in fall 2020.

The pandemic has blurred the boundaries between our professional and personal lives, as employees worked from home, many simultaneously caring for children and other loved ones while living a more isolated lifestyle.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reported the economic burden of mental illness in Canada was estimated to be approximately $51 billion each year, with $6.3 billion resulting from lost workplace productivity. Furthermore, mental illness represents roughly one-third of short and long-term disability claims, and 70 per cent of workplace disability costs.

Workplace mental health and wellbeing is top of mind for many organizations, as strong mental health is the cornerstone of employee engagement and workplace productivity. Employers play a vital role in supporting the wellbeing of their workers.

Impactful Research Leads to Better Conversations and Collaboration

We’re committed to gaining a better understanding of workplace mental health and how to improve it for all Canadians. Our recently launched Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing Research Centre aims to tackle critical issues facing Canadian organizations and the wellbeing of their employees. Working with our founding members Desjardins Insurance, Sun Life Financial and Lundbeck Canada, we’ll examine how and where organizations are making investments in workplace mental health and the impact of mental health-related workplace absenteeism and presenteeism. Our leading-edge research will share insights on how employers can optimize best practices for their investments in employee mental health and wellbeing and benefit from lower absenteeism as well as a more engaged and mentally healthy workforce.

Research shows that:

  • Employers are investing in employee mental health and taking it seriously
  • Employers are re-examining how they support their employees, and many are making longer-term changes such as increased flexibility in work arrangements to include hybrid and remote work
  • Employee mental health is intrinsically linked to healthy workplace culture, workload and accommodations. This means that many employers are now integrating a mental health lens into ongoing conversations, meetings, programming, policies and training on a regular basis
  • Having a psychologically safe culture, in which diversity, equity and inclusion are mainstay features, helps combat stigma, as time and space are opened up for ongoing, open discussions about our mental health
  • Change doesn’t occur in a straight line, and when it comes to measuring the impacts of the investments being made to support employees, employers are putting their best foot forward, but it is a journey that will take time

We look forward to gleaning impactful insights from these studies that can help advance the important discussion about mental health. These research findings will be complemented by additional studies related to workplace mental health and wellbeing that could include topics such as psychological safety, remote workers, and fostering a positive workplace culture as well as the development of a workplace mental health and wellbeing toolkit.

Watch the Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing Research Centre page for updates and our latest research on the topic.

Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing Research

Sarah Storm

Sarah Storm

Council Manager

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