Although significant strides have made been in supporting employees with mental health issues, Canadian organizations still have a long way to go. Celebrity driven campaigns orchestrated by corporate giants do help to break down stigma and raise awareness, but how much impact can those initiatives really have when work starts again on Monday morning? Increasing numbers of Canadians are reporting mental health issues and, with that, absenteeism, presenteeism and slumps in productivity are all on the rise.
“If someone is really struggling with their mental health and doesn’t have access to the appropriate treatment, it can lead to short-term or long-term disability,” says Zahra Sakkejha, Director of Marketing at Personalized Prescribing Inc. “It’s not like breaking your arm, where you can wear a cast for six weeks and then you’re back to business as usual. There can often be no end in sight for an individual with a mental illness issue if they don’t get the right treatment.”
For Canadian organizations, the increase in mental health issues is having on one tangible and fundamental result: increased costs. Lowered productivity, presenteeism and absenteeism are having direct and significant impacts on organizations’ profit margins. “When an employee is forced to take short or long-term disability, the organization has to pay both that individual and also pay another salary to someone taking over the role,” Sakkejha says. “They are paying double salary for an extended period of time with no particular expectations of when that situation might end.”
Many Canadian employers do now focus on mental wellness as a strategy. Conscientious companies are providing lunch and learns, seminars and educational materials to help employees recognize if they or a colleague might be encountering an issue. “Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and peer support programs are the most common models that employers have in place,” Sakkejha says. “They are an important cog in the beginning of the cycle, but they don’t really address issues in the middle or end of the cycle. These programs don’t really help an employee get the medical treatment that can either prevent them from going on disability, or bring them back from disability.”