Mental health help for your employees and yourself
As a business owner, you want the best for the health and well-being of your firm’s employees. But when it comes mental health, it can feel like a confusing and sensitive challenge to get the right supports in place.
Given what the past two years have brought, it’s hardly surprising that social isolation, job loss, and changes in relationships brought on by the pandemic have impacted Canadians’ mental health. The consequences are becoming clear. After Canada’s first pandemic winter, more Canadians displayed symptoms of mental health disorders. According to Statistics Canada, one in four Canadians aged 18 and older screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in spring 2021, up from one in five in fall 2020. If this describes you or someone close to you, look for pandemic-related mental health help that may be available in your province or territory.
If your firm has Chambers Plan, consider including Employee Assistance Program (EAP) coverage as one of your options. An EAP can connect you or your employees to counsellors who can help deal with mental health issues, along with help for other personal and work-related issues like workplace conflicts, legal issues, financial concerns, caring for family members, and alcohol and substance problems.
Help for mental illness, crisis situations and suicide prevention
Immediate help for serious situations can be found by calling 911 or going to a hospital’s emergency room.
In addition, if you or one of your employees need urgent, immediate support for a mental health crisis, choose from the resources listed here, including help for suicidal thoughts, kids and young adults, and a culturally sensitive help line for Indigenous people.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada has a crisis conversation guide that discusses Suicide Prevention in the Workplace. Having meaningful conversations in the workplace about suicide can provide support and resources, and it can bring hope to someone who may be struggling. For managers, asking, “What can I do to support you?”, might be a way to begin those difficult conversations. In addition to information for employers, managers, and co-workers, there are even tips for those who work with the public and who might be confronted with a customer who is talking about suicide.
Supporting mental health
Another good resource to deal with workplace problems is the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Their factsheet, “ Mental Health - Having Courageous Conversations”, talks about how to support someone with mental health issues; what to say (and what body language to use) when you’re having that difficult conversation. There’s also information on job burnout, return to work and PTSD.
You may already have staff members who are trained in first aid to deal with a workplace injury, but did you know you or your employees can sign up for Mental Health First Aid training? In the same way that physical first aid is provided until medical treatment can be obtained, mental health first aid is given until appropriate support is found or until the crisis is resolved. The goal of the training is to reduce stigma, increase awareness of signs and symptoms of the most common mental health problems, and build confidence in engaging someone who experiences a mental health problem or crisis.
Everyday mental health for every employee
The advantages of better mental health at work include reduced absenteeism/presenteeism, fewer medical leaves and disability claims, and reduced workplace injuries. A well-functioning workplace leads to higher productivity and makes it easier to hire and retain staff.
Sounds great, right? So what can business owners do to achieve this? Employment and Social Development Canada recommends that employers take every reasonable effort to protect and promote the mental health of staff. Here are their suggestions:
- Support employee participation [at work] and decision-making
- Define employees' duties and responsibilities
- Promote work-life balance
- Encourage and model respectful behaviours
- Manage workloads
- Provide training and learning opportunities
- Have conflict resolution practices in place
- Recognize employees' contributions effectively
Incorporating good practises for mental health into the way business is done will lead to a workplace where tasks flow efficiently, with less discord among employees, and a place where people want to come to work. And that’s a good outcome for managers and staff alike.