6.3 WORKPLACES

PROMOTING MENTAL HEALTH

Key Messages

In Ontario, people with mental illnesses are more likely to be unemployed and to report experiencing discrimination than people without mental illnesses (Ontario Human Rights Commission).

Lambton County residents are more likely than Ontarians to report that their employer promotes mental health.

Promoting mental health in the workplace can improve employee productivity, creativity, and engagement while reducing mental health problems, time away from work, and costs.

In workplaces, mental health promotion means building positive relationships among staff, building mental health awareness and skills, meaningful support from employers in responding to staff mental health needs, and transparent acceptance of employing people with mental health problems.

Greater attention is needed to building capacity of Lambton workplaces to promote mental health and address mental illness.

Greater attention is needed to monitoring and evaluating the impact of mental health promotion activities in Lambton workplaces.

“Be open, honest and non-judgmental about it. Encourage employees to take care of themselves and promote an overall healthy work environment. Find ways to help your employee to work from home or other avenues available so that they can continue to work and have a source of income and self-worth, if at all possible for both the employee and employer. “

– Community member

Workplaces

Ontarians with mental health and addiction disabilities* are less likely to be in the labour force and more likely to be unemployed. The unemployment rate of Ontarians aged 15-64 with mental health or addiction conditions in 2011 (22.6%) was more than twice as high as Ontarians with other conditions (9%), and almost three times higher than Ontarians without a known disability (7.7%). Many people with disabilities perceive they have been discriminated against in employment, regardless of disability type. A substantially high proportion of people with mental health and addiction disabilities (67.7%) report being disadvantaged at work due to their condition. (All information in this paragraph from Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2015).

Similar to the general population, 1 in 5 of those employed in Lambton County report having ever been diagnosed with a mental illness by a professional. Thirteen percent of Lambton residents report taking time off work or school to deal with a personal mental health issue, including nearly 40% of those who have ever been diagnosed with a mental illness.

About two thirds of respondents agreed that their employer promotes positive mental health, and this is significantly higher than a representative sample of Ontarians. However, while the majority of employees feel their employer provides a positive workplace for mental health, 20% say this is not the case in their place of employment. Furthermore, only about half of employees feel comfortable talking to their employers about mental health. Those who are not flourishing in terms of their wellbeing are much less likely to feel supported in the workplace.These results suggest there is room to increase dialogue and to help support employers to provide a psychologically safe environment for employees.

*This paragraph refers to the term “disability” with reference to mental illness, because that is the terminology used by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Mental illness, just like physical illness, may lead to disabilities that require accommodation, but this should not be interpreted to be true all the time, just like all physical illness does not automatically mean a disability exists. Also, Lambton Public Health prefers the use of ability-focused language.

65
AGREE THEIR EMPLOYER PROMOTES POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE
54
ARE COMFORTABLE TALKING TO THEIR EMPLOYER ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health service users identified four main ways in which employers can promote positive mental health in the workplace.

1.

By creating positive relationships between staff through regular communication channels, team building exercises and social events.

1. By creating positive relationships between staff through regular communication channels, team building exercises and social events.

“At my place of work there is already such a strong feeling of positivity and inclusion. We have monthly staff meetings, regular conversations with our manager, and effortless accommodations for my weekly group and appointments.”

– Community member

2.

Increasing awareness of mental health issues and encouraging employees to take care of their mental health through informational workshops or meetings, awareness days and personal development courses.

2. Increasing awareness of mental health issues and encouraging employees to take care of their mental health through informational workshops or meetings, awareness days and personal development courses.

“Provide more professional development on personal mental health as well as supporting coworkers with mental illness.”

– Community member

3.

Providing more tangible support from employers should employees need help with mental health issues.

3. Providing more tangible support from employers should employees need help with mental health issues.

“Just treating staff with respect, making sure that staff if they are going through something that they can feel they are supported, and no threat of anything happening if you need to take a day (or break) to deal with your issues.”

– Community member

“Make it part of Human Resources management to take additional training to be able to speak and correspond to employees with a mental illness in a manner that does not make the sufferer feel like her job is at stake or that they are disposable.”

– Community member

4.

Messaging for employers on the employability of those with mental health conditions.

4. Messaging for employers on the employability of those with mental health conditions.

“Employers might hold back promotions from someone with mental illness, so more education and awareness that a person with mental illness can still contribute to the workplace and be successful [is needed].”

– Community member

“We need understanding that not everyone’s mental illness is the “same” and not everyone can work at the same capacity. Some people living with mental illness can work and others can’t or they can for short periods of time but then it becomes too much for them.”

– Community member

Promotion and Prevention in Workplaces in Lambton

There are many resources and tools for workplaces to promote mental health so we asked a number of employers in Lambton County what is working for them.  The examples in the table below are being carried out right now by employers across Lambton in order to promote and protect mental health in the workplace.

Intervention

Description

Example

Intervention

Description

Example

Mental Health Promotion

Activities or initiatives in the workplace that promote positive mental health among staff.  This could include increasing staff connectedness, engagement, knowledge, and skills.

Wellness committees are groups of staff interested in improving the overall health and wellbeing of staff.  They are often responsive to the needs of the staff and can carry out activities such as:

Educational sessions from experts

Encourage staff engagement and participation

Empower staff-directed learning

Develop health-related skills

Develop comprehensive mental health promotion strategy

Mentally Healthy Policies and Procedures

Policies and procedures that support mental health are the backbone of a mentally healthy workplace. They demonstrate commitment, delineate staff roles, and ensure accountability.

Adoption of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Psychological Health and Safety Standards.  These 13 organizational requirements are vital components of a mentally healthy workplace.  While the standard is voluntary, there are many benefits to considering early adoption and mental health is a necessary consideration in an overall health and safety policy and plan.

Other policies that protect mental health include protecting rights and supporting marginalized groups.  This could include a policy supporting LGBTQ+ staff and clients (for example, a positive space policy) or a commitment to cultural safety through training.

Targeted Support for those in need

Planning to support staff in times of greater need is an important component in the workplace. Many employees will experience mental health problems in their lives and having a plan in place for managers, human resources, and external supports to help is key.

A number of employers have employee and family assistance programs (EAP) with easy access to free counselling support on topics ranging from mental health to financial or relationship issues. EAPs respond to the needs of individual staff and can help to navigate access to further mental health services but they also provide support and debriefing for whole teams or workplaces if there is a tragic or violent event. Some employers set aside specific benefits for counselling or other services related to mental health needs.

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