Are you putting your employees at risk?

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Despite increased awareness and multiple campaigns to combat stigma, a shocking new report has revealed that more than half of Canadian workplaces still lack a mental health strategy.

Published by the Conference Board of Canada, the disappointing report – dubbed Healthy Brains at Work: Employer-Sponsored Mental Health Benefits and Programs – found that just 43 per cent of workplaces have an official plan in place.

Louise Bradley is the president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada – she told HRM that employers are making a huge mistake if they fail to implement a meaningful plan.

“We would never go out in a construction site and see someone without a hard hat but we don’t pay attention to what’s going on inside of that hard hat so even in areas that you know are more labour intensive - we still need to rely on our brains to do the work that we’re doing. Everything emanates from there,” she said.

“To not give it the same degree and respect and attention does a disservice not only to workplace but to society overall – this is something we take home with us, share with our friends and family, therefore it has far, far reaching implications. I think to underestimate its significant is the greatest error we can make,” she continued.

In the report, around 30 per cent of respondent cited a lack of knowledge on how to address mental health as a reason for not having implemented a strategy.

Other reasons included a lack of financial resources, human resources, or time (56 per cent), a lack of corporate knowledge on how to address workplace mental health (32 per cent), or because it was not a legal or legislative requirement (23 per cent.)

Interestingly, almost a third of employers (23 per cent) said they hadn’t implemented a plan because mental illness wasn’t an issue in their workplace.

“The workplace isn’t a place where we’ve traditionally thought that mental health programs are needed but clearly its where we spend most of our waking hours so it just makes sense to understand that it can contribute to – and take away from – our mental well-being,” said Bradley.

“In Canada, half a million people called in sick today due to mental health problems – to ignore that will be our peril,” she added.

Bradley told HRM that one of the key areas employers must improve on is dealing with mental wellbeing in the same way as physical health.

“First of all to look at integrating occupational health and safety, integrating it with psychological health and safety – you can’t really adequately deal with one without the other so I think to focus on joining those together is critical.”

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