May 9, 2018

[HR] Focus on Mental Health - Mental Health Week

May 9, 2018

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), In a recent major Canadian study:

  • 82% of responding organizations ranked mental health conditions in their top three causes of short term disability (72% for long-term),
  • 30% of all short and long-term disability claims are due to mental health problems and illnesses.
  • The average responding organization in the survey reported spending more than $10.5 million annually on absence claims, and
  • It is estimated that lost productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism (present but less than fully productive at work) due to mental health problems and illnesses on an ongoing basis is in the billions of dollars.

These are staggering figures! Its 2018, and in today’s modern, technologically advanced, high definition, connected world it lends a sobering thought as to the internal workings of many of our co-workers and loved ones. Not to get too philosophical, but I was struck by a social media video making the rounds, which aims to sharpen focus on the human condition - taller skyscrapers, but shorter tempers, wider freeways but narrower viewpoints, people spend more money that ever but we seem to spend less time with the people we love, we seem to have all the latest and greatest toys, but less contentment and happiness, more degrees but less common sense, more knowledge but less wisdom, more experts in every field, but more problems, more prescription drugs but less wellness, more entertainment than ever but we laugh too little in a genuine manner, the world is more competitive, but we have fewer winners and some people even hate their jobs but we seem to spend more time than ever at work.We seem to have reached a point of the situation being referred to as a “mental health crisis” in some circles, giving rise to addictions and more prescriptions than ever as side effects, as we try to “fix” what’s wrong.So, what can we do to ensure that we are mindful, of ourselves and of others? How can we be sure that we ourselves are not at risk? How do we support friends, co-workers and family who may be going through this struggle? – which is at many times not so obvious; What can we do as ordinary folk?Well, the following seems to be a good course of action, small incremental steps that we can implement right away, which have been amalgamated from research from various articles, websites, books and support resources available via our public health system and through bodies like the Center for Addition & Mental Health (CAMH) or the MHCC and other sources:

  • Awareness/Accountability is a good start. We should be monitoring our mental state with the same level of focus that we devote to managing physical benchmarks like blood pressure or any other physical concerns. Take accountability for yourself - Encourage others to do the same.
  • Help Alleviate the stigma, especially when it comes to yourself. A good practice is to be honest & open about what happened, what is happening and be forthright/self-assured in seeking help. If you can’t/won’t help yourself, you won’t be able to help others.
  • Recognize potential warning signs and Respond to others in need of help in a confident, supportive manner, encourage and guide them to seek help and to appropriate resources/support.
  • Being mindful of Habits and Living Healthy & Well is key to promoting mental health. Take your lunch break, change eating habits to healthier ones, drink plenty of water, give up a vice, go for a walk if you can.
  • Get your Work-Life balance Prioritize, get organized, share scope of responsibilities if possible, speak with your boss about timelines, schedules and resources. Its OK to work late some days but if you’re the last one to leave on a regular basis, and work is stressing you out, its time to ask for help.
  • Ask for help. This little detail gets overpowered with the notion that if we ask for help, it shows us as less than capable. This is false. Remember that you’re human. Demonstrate diligence and be sure to ask for help if you’re overburdened. This little mindfulness behavior will make it easier to seek help from a mental health professional or other resources standpoint if a crisis should occur.
  • Most workplaces have excellent EFAP’s (Employee (& Family) Assistance Programs, but they’re not well publicized and thus there is sometimes a lack of awareness about these services. Take the time to find out about what your workplace offers in this regard. Raise awareness among your peers/team and as needed, encourage a call to speak with a professional counsellor – you might even change/save a life.
  • Practise the 5 steps to workplace well-being – I think they’re great for everyday life too!:
  • Connect – One of my friends adopted a “rule for 2018” – she speaks with someone new each day and learns a little something about them, Give a colleague a lift if possible, or share the journey home with them (this needs to be mutually agreeable – don’t be creepy!), call up/ reconnect an old acquaintance you haven’t spoken with in a while, be open to extending a hand of support or friendship, if possible have lunch with co-workers and really connect with them (this’ll help with work life balance too!)
  • Be Active – As mentioned before, go for a walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, I enjoy biking in summer, if you take transit, get off the bus a stop or two before and walk the rest of the way, Organize an event with friends/family/co-workers, walk over to a co-workers desk and have a small chat instead of an email (be mindful of their time/schedule when you do this!)
  • Take Notice – be mindful, notice others, empathize, broaden awareness of yourself and of others – it will probably help you make better choices for yourself and for others, and help you better understand your values and motivations.
  • Learn – keep an open mind, continuous learning is a fabulous thing for life, I tie it to travelling too – they say it expands the mind. I agree! But if you not into travelling, learn from your surroundings, your family, your co-workers, your pets, sign up for a class, read a book, explore a new topic, there’s tons of options.
  • Give – participate in community or social activity, be kind, help others, give of yourself with no ulterior motive. Research proves that it makes you feel good about yourself overall.

A valuable workplace resource for policy formulation and guidance is The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the Standard) lists 13 psychological health and safety (PHS) factors, which outline key areas where organizations can improve their workplace environment and their policies in order to reduce stress on workers and help keep them healthier. The 13 factors deal with typical workplace issues, ranging from psychological support, competencies and protection; leadership; respect; employee development; recognition and rewards; influence and inclusion; workload; engagement; work-life balance; and physical safety.A closing thought - which is easy to say, but sometimes difficult to put in practice – Don’t ever give up, #GetLoud about this, raise awareness, ask for help! And if you do want to give up – give up a bad habit or give up a self-harming behavior pattern that you know you fall into. Not easy, I know, but every incremental step in the right direction, however small it may be, brings you closer to your goal.If your small/medium business does not have an EFAP, or a workplace mental health policy, or even if you need assistance with improving your employee health plan at work, please don’t hesitate to reach out - “HR Advice at Beneplan” at 416 863 6718 x 268 or email us at, we’re happy to assist.


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