Every day, 500,000 Canadians miss work due to mental illness. The economic impact is estimated to be at least $51 billion a year. With 1 in 5 Canadians suffering from a mental illness in their lifetimes, the impact on people’s lives is incalculable.
Increasingly, employers are recognizing the importance of fostering healthy workplaces. Research has shown that the workplace can play a critical role in our life when it comes to supporting mental wellness. Work provides daily meaning and structure to our days and is a source of regular activity and social interaction. It helps shape who we are and it is no secret that good mental health is crucial to our overall well-being. We know that only 1 out of 3 people who suffer from mental illness seek help, and that 2 out of 3 people with mental health issues suffering in silence. Never before has it been more critical for employers to identify and address the mental health needs of their employees.
Recognizing and understanding what an individual is going through early on can mean the difference between getting timely critical support for recovery or years of unnecessary suffering. For example, once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.
Employers can ensure staff have easy access to mental health information, including seminars and other learning events throughout the year, and advanced return-to-work programs.
Senior leaders and managers can take part in training and information programs or participate in corporate roundtables and other initiatives to support the creation of an overall culture of mental health support across the Canadian business landscape.
Resources are available to support employers in fostering positive workplace strategies including an online mental health assessment tool called FeelingBetterNow™ that can be shared with employees, an online guide from the Canadian Mental Health Association which provides contemporary context of mental health challenges, and a new guide from the Mental Health Commission of Canada to enhance workplace mental health.