Mental health support: What your workforce needs

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In time for Mental Health Week (May 7 to 13) the Department of National Defence has announced it is cutting the jobs of those involved in monitoring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide prevention. In 2011 suicides almost doubled in the armed forces, with 20 soldiers taking their lives, compared with 12 in 2010.

The armed forces has higher rates of suicide than the general population, but in Canada suicide still accounts for 16% of deaths for those aged 25 to 44.

Mental illness is prevalent in Canada with one in five people affected – that’s almost 3.5 million affected workers. Depression is one of the most common illnesses experienced.

Mental Health Works national program manager Kathy Jurgens says mental illness is an overlooked workplace issue, but there are ways to better manage it to protect your staff and help your company.

 “Creating a culture of support is crucial,” Jurgens says.  “This would include mental health crisis response and support as well as mental health prevention and promotion strategies.  Creating a psychologically healthy and safe work environment is beneficial to all workers, regardless of the industry, but more critical if the industries are already plagued with an increase of mental health issues due to workplace factors.”

See also: Supporting staff with mental illness good for business

Mental Health Works focuses on day to day performance issues and workplace accommodations, while the Mental Health Commission of Canada runs a Mental Health First Aid course, which is parallel to physical first aid, in helping individuals learn how to support and assist when someone is struggling or in crisis.

“Save yourself time, energy, and money and get educated on how to better support all of your employees with regards to mental health.  Simply put, it’s a sound business decision,” Jurgens says.

High stress industries such as emergency response and medical personnel, who are frequently exposed to traumatic events, are considered high risk. However, for any organization support systems need to be in place. Individuals cope with stress differently and even a small change to their work environment could make a difference.

Work related stress and mental health often go together. The symptoms of stress and common mental health problems are similar, for example, loss of appetite, fatigue and tearfulness can be symptoms of both. For people with existing mental health issues, stress may trigger or worsen their problem.

Ten signs to look for:
 

  • Consistent late arrivals or frequent absences
     
  • Lack of cooperation or a general inability to work with colleagues
     
  • Decreased productivity
     
  • Increased accidents or safety problems
     
  • Frequent complaints of fatigue or unexplained pains
     
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
     
  • Decreased interest or involvement in one’s work
     
  • Working excessive overtime over a prolonged period of time
     
  • Expressions of strange or grandiose ideas
     
  • Displays of anger or blaming of others


Resources:
Suicide prevention crisis centres
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Works
Mental Health First Aid

 

 

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  • Jocelyne R. Tremblay on 2012-05-11 3:52:33 AM

    Too many times people stay in their jobs because they have to not because it is fulfilling. Added to personal crisis or unhappiness, leads to depression. The 10 signs to look for were really enlightening. Thank you

  • Anna Johnston on 2012-05-11 11:34:46 PM

    I've seen combinations of anger/isolation that are really hard to deal with because they become confrontational. It's important to also give manager the message "Take care of yourself, too."

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