Despite increased efforts to tackle the issue, mental illness in the workplace is still a major problem – and it’s costing our economy millions. So why are employers still struggling to get a handle on psychological health? HRM spoke to the president of the Mental Health Commission of Canada to find out.
“We’ve made a great deal of progress but we still have a long way to go,” said Louise Bradley. “We will have a struggle for some time to come.”
Bradley agreed that employers across Canada are becoming more acutely aware of the impact mental health problems can have on productivity but said they risked ruin if they didn’t.
“To not pay attention to mental health, whether you’re an employer or part of a company, will not allow for a successful business,” she warned. “Half a million people in Canada called in sick this week due to mental health problems – to ignore that will be our peril.”
Lost productivity, income support and health and social services cost the Canadian economy a staggering $51 billion every year.
So how can employers improve?
“Deal with mental wellbeing the same way as physical wellbeing,” urges Bradley. “Look at integrating occupational health and safety with psychological health and safety – you can’t really adequately deal with one without the other. Joining those together is critical.”
Glenn Riseley, founder and president of employee health and performance program ‒ Global Corporate Challenge agrees – establishing a stronger connection between mental and physical health is essential.
“Employees’ mental health and physical health have a symbiotic relationship,” he told HRM. “Because of that, employers need a strategy that approaches health in a holistic way that engages employees, connects them together and helps them make the connection between their physical and mental health.”
Riseley insists that employers should actively encourage employees to build their mental wellness alongside their physical wellness – that way they’ll be better equipped to deal with demanding and stressful situations.
“Too often employers put things like stress and heart disease and diabetes into separate silos and then deal with them separately. The most sustainable and cost effective approach is to create a culture of health that promotes physical, mental and social well-being with the employee at the centre,” he said.