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Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

January 29th, 2o2o marks the tenth year of Bell Let’s Talk Day, a social movement designed to bring awareness to mental health. Since it’s launch in 2010, Bell has partnered with over nine hundred organizations that offer mental health services throughout our country. With a major brand committed to shedding light on a topic that has remained in the dark for years, mental illness can now be addressed at home and within the workplace.

Mental health is a complex topic, no matter where it may be discussed. By providing a safe space to talk about, however, a greater understanding is being established. Mental illness is a broad term that includes depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction and so forth. While it used to be believed that mental health had no role within the workplace, many companies are starting to recognize that mental illness impacts individuals at home and at work, causing it to fall under their purview.

If you were to research mental health in the workplace, you would find that many articles reference entrepreneurship and startups. In a study conducted by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), “nearly half of Canadian entrepreneurs say mental-health issues interfere with their ability to work. One-third of business owners surveyed reported feeling depressed at least once a week.” Recently, Deloitte Canada published a study that shared that mental illnesses such as burnout, are impacting startups, partly due to the competitive landscape that startups find themselves in. Pair these findings with the lack of benefits designed for employee health and wellness programs specifically geared towards mental health and wellness, and you have millions of Canadians struggling to maintain their mental health at work.

Many companies are addressing mental health in the workplace by increasing their benefits packages and by allowing employees to take “mental health days,” similar to sick days. A few major companies are even cutting back on working hours. Four-day workweeks and the ability to work from home are just two of many ways in which businesses are helping their team members maintain their overall health and well-being and as a result, are seeing increases in productivity as well. 

In a 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) study, it was found that, “depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy [approximately] $1-trillion USD annually in lost productivity.” While office pets and lunchtime yoga sessions may be effective for some companies, they aren’t solutions that every business can easily implement. 

In Canada, roughly 30 percent of disability claims are due to mental health-related problems and illnesses. To assist Canadians, whether they are employers or employees, The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is providing online resources and information to educate the public and provide tools to support those living with a mental illness.

A key part of understanding the needs of your employees is being able to determine if and when they are able to return to work. With the growing number of disability claims being filed due to mental illness, employers need to ensure that employees are not only capable of returning to the workplace, but that they can safely complete their required tasks without causing detriment to themselves or to others. Businesses are therefore conducting cognitive evaluations to ensure that individuals are ready to return to work. In conjunction with a Functional Capacity Evaluation, a cognitive evaluation uses questionnaires, standardized tests, and structured observations to gain a greater understanding of the individual’s overall mental health and wellness. If an individual is able to return to work, you can be confident that they are able to do so without causing detriment to themselves or to others.

Mental health in the workplace is a growing concern that is being addressed by businesses in many different ways. If you are concerned about your team members and their mental health and well-being, chat with our team. Not only are we able to provide cognitive evaluations to determine if a person is able to return to work, but we can provide resources and information that will allow you to learn more about mental health, how it impacts your team, and what you can do to improve your workplace overall.