The Cost of Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace
With an estimated cost of $52 billion per year, we must continue to enhance our mental health awareness and acceptance in the workplace.
Perhaps you know someone at work who is struggling with mental health challenges? Perhaps you are having these struggles too? You may hesitate to tell your employer, wondering what might happen if you disclosed your concerns, and what difference would it make anyway? If you look around your workplace the statistics state that one in five are living with a mental health condition. The conversation needs to be addressed for everyone’s wellbeing.
Thanks to a new standard regarding psychological health and safety in the workplace, presented by the Canadian Standards Association in 2013, we now have Safeguards in place. Although voluntary at this time, legislation is planned to further enhance enforcement. These standards offer the employee more security if they decide to disclose. The Mental Health Commission of Canada can assist implementation of the guidelines of the Standard in ways including training consultants to assist employers and staff to address these issues in a balanced manner, and to educate both staff and management to help ease the conversation with employees about mental health. Dialogue and awareness can also be encouraged through posters that promote psychological wellness, addressing exercise, eating habits, stress management and recognizing early warning signs of mental illness.
Employers, especially those in small business, may have no Employee Assistance Plan, and believe they cannot afford to accommodate employee needs. But many accommodations cost nothing, and only require creativity. For example, an employee who cannot manage crowds yet must take the 8 a.m. bus to work, which challenges their mental health to the degree their workday is impacted, could benefit by more flexible hours. Others may require more frequent breaks and could divide their lunch hour time throughout the day. Others require a quieter location, which could be a simple shift to a corner area, or to a more private cubicle. These accommodations can result in better mental health and a stronger relationship with an employer who is willing to work with someone’s challenges.
With financial impact to the Canadian economy estimated up to 52 billion dollars per year due to direct and indirect costs, we must continue to enhance our mental health awareness and acceptance in the workplace. Huge strides have been made in the past decade yet stigma still stands as a barrier to the necessary conversations. As with any major cultural shift, this will take time, but these new standards should help to ease the journey. The link to the standard, information on nation wide programs and general education is: https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/national-standard
For local information you can contact the Canadian Mental Health Association at www.cmhaww.ca to explore their programs, 24-hour crisis lines (HERE24/7), (1-844-437-3247), and training.
Thea Trussler has been dedicated and passionate about her career in mental health for over 30 years. Her work has now brought together all of her best skills of teacher, life coach, mental health counsellor and consultant in a retreat venue of Springfield castle in Ireland with her company Intuitive Directions Retreats.
Thea is a master trainer of Mental Health First Aid, and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training and is embarking on yet another new branch of career with the National Service Dogs of Canada as a client support person and assessor. For more information please see www.intuitivedirectionsretreats.com