Make Your Workplace Psychologically Safe + Mentally Healthy

Providing a path to better outcomes for employees and for businesses.

Posted May 08, 2020

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I’m excited to pass along this new workplace mental health resource I’ve discovered: the evidence-based Workplace Mental Health Playbook for Business Leaders

The economic burden of mental illness in Canada is a whopping $51 billion annually1. That’s billion with a "B" every single year. Even more striking is that the cost of a disability claim due to mental illness is almost double the cost of a claim due to physical illness2

When I speak to executives and managers, I hear they want to do something; they know they need to do something. But often they’re unclear as to the best path to take to make the biggest difference. 

If you are one of those of leaders, this guide might offer some welcomed clarity.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), in partnership with BMO, launched the playbook at the end of January.

I was skeptical when I first heard about it. But when I looked at it more closely, I was encouraged. It includes feedback from Canadian corporate leaders and case studies of top companies that are implementing mental health strategies. 

It includes research-informed recommendations to help leaders and organizations successfully put into action a mental health strategy that enhances employee wellness and performance, and increases company profits. The guide states that "Organizations with comprehensive mental health strategies perform better on average in all areas—from health and safety to shareholder returns."3,4

Some suggestions you will have already read about, and some you may not have. A key idea is that any mental health strategy must be integrated into the overall long-term business strategy. Equally important is to create a work environment that is safe for everyone to discuss mental health. How a company goes about that will differ depending on various factors in their workplace. 

One concrete way is to have senior leaders share their own journeys with mental health. I, for one, would love to see more individuals "from the top" champion and role model what they would like to happen in their workplace. When a CEO steps up and discusses their mental health experiences, that person is walking the talk. Honest and vulnerable communication from leadership helps reduce stigma and discrimination. 5,6

In my new keynote workshop, called "Creating Comfortable Mental Health Conversations at Work," I emphasize the power of simple but regular "how are you doing" check-ins to help people feel free to discuss any concerns and help managers and supervisors to prevent serious issues from occurring early on. 

At least every other day, I hear on the radio, or I read in a magazine, a piece on a psychiatric disorder, an individual telling of their experience, or an initiative to help those suffering. That’s a big change since I started sharing my story back in 2002. And that, my friend, is a good thing. A very good thing.

However, businesses are still learning how to really make their workplaces psychologically safe and mentally healthy. I’m hoping this new playbook can help. What mental health initiatives is your organization putting in place? Email me to let me know.

© Victoria Maxwell

References

1 Lim, K.L., Jacobs, P., Ohinmaa, A., Schopflocher, D. and Dewa, C.S. (2008). A new population-based measure of the economic burden of mental Illness in Canada. Chronic Diseases in Canada, 28(3), 92-98.

2 Dewa C.S., Chau N. and Dermer S. (2010). Examining the comparative incidence and costs of physical and mental health-related disabilities in an employed population. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 52(7), 758-62.

3 Deloitte. (2019). The ROI in workplace mental health programs: Good for people, good for business - A blueprint for workplace mental health programs. Deloitte Insights.

4 CSA Group. (Reaffirmed 2018). Psychological health and safety in the workplace —Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013 National Standard of Canada. CSA Group.

5 Howatt, B. and Palvetzian, S. (2018). How leadership can impact workplace mental health. Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/careers/workplace-award/article-how-leadership-can-impact-workplace-mental-health/

6 LaMontagne, A.D., Martin, A., Page, K.M., Reavley, N.J., Noblet, A.J., Milner, A.J., Keegel, T. & Smith, P.M. (2014). Workplace mental health: Developing an integrated intervention approach, BMC Psychiatry 14. Retrieved from: https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-244X-14-131