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Practical tools to support employee mental health [Part 2 of 3]

How do you move from high level discussions to practical tools? From triage, to prevention?

Bell Canada Director, Learning and Engagement Angie Harrop discusses how the company developed tools and provided education to ensure its leaders recognized when employees needed help and knew how to approach their team members. Research and development of best practice means Bell leaders now have a range of guides available to help them through multiple workplace scenarios.

For more information and tools to start the process in your workplace visit

Video transcript below:

Caitlin Nobes, HRM Online
 Like assessing physical health needs, Bell Canada first addressed the urgent mental health needs of its workforce.  But how do you move from triage to prevention.  Bell Canada Director, Learning & Engagement, Angie Harrop discusses the company’s achievements and experiences as it implemented its mental health initiative.

This series is brought to you by Global Knowledge, Canada’s largest learning and development partner.

Caitlin Nobes:  How do you move from a high level discussion to specific practical tools that can be used at a variety of levels in an organization?

Angie Harrop, Director, Learning & Engagement, Bell Canada
Angie Harrop:
 So that’s a big job and that’s where the rubber hits the road obviously.  What we chose to do was put together a task force from a cross-functional, across HR as well as health and safety, leaders from the business who had dealt with these experiences themselves as well as mental health experts.  We worked to create scenarios that were most common, leaders who had been dealing with perhaps an employee who had a marked change in performance, an employee who perhaps was exhibiting significant differences in behaviour, someone who became increasingly aggressive in the workplace as well as maybe the more commonly understood situations of substance abuse and addiction as well as suicidal intentions.  We created workbooks and leader guides that were posted on our internet site available to all our leaders.  The workbooks and leader guides are structured in a case study method.  So first explaining the scenario, providing the leader with a list of do’s and don’ts, discussion [guides] and additional resources to help them and their team.

Caitlin Nobes:  Have you equipped leaders to better understand and support employee mental health?

Angie Harrop:  Well through our journey we quickly recognized the pivotal role that a leader plays in the experiences of an employee, dealing with a mental illness situation at work.  And so we went about taking a comprehensive approach, starting from pre-diagnosis to the disability and return to work, equipping that leader with the skills and tools to understand their [ball], have a recognized warning signs, help to deal with the absence and how to deal with their teams as well and then the eventual return.

Caitlin Nobes:  And  how did the employees respond?

Angie Harrop:  Well few years ago we introduced a question around Bell’ mental health initiative into our annual employee engagement survey and we saw a reasonably favourable response at the time, but also a large number of employees were responding as undecided, which I think tells us there was some skepticism.  I fast forward to 2013 and this question has now seen the largest single improvement in any question in the whole survey.  What we are seeing now, our employees are increasing their awareness around the initiatives that have been taking place, the progress that we are making, both outside in the community as well as internally in Bell.  In fact the comments tell us that there is an increasing sense of  pride that the employees feel as being connected to an organization making such a significant difference in mental health in Canada.

Caitlin Nobes:  Watch next week for Angie’s insights into the challenges they have faced and what advice she would give an HR professional hoping to make similar strides in mental support.