They’re talked about in hushed voices. They’re often hidden by those who experience them. They’re still taboo in society. But mental health issues are a defining public health problem in Canada. And they’re far more common than you might think.
In fact, according to new research by CivicAction, there are more than 1.5 million employees in the GTA experiencing mental health issues—that’s half of the working population.
The study found that one quarter of employees suffering from high stress are more likely to take absences related to mental health, these types of disorders are the key driver of short-term disability claims in recent years, 42% of employees say that managers should know what to do when a worker shows signs of distress, and 71% are concerned with the stigma around mental health in the workplace.
Common Stressors in the Workplace
Many workplace stressors can contribute to psychological health issues, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Income inequality, which has increased in Toronto by 31% between 1980 and 2005, may play a part. Job insecurity can also come into play, considering less than half of all GTA workers have stable full-time jobs with benefits and not knowing if you have a job from one day to another can be a big source of stress and anxiety. Racial discrimination can also be a stressor. Family care demands—providing unpaid hours for caregiving to family members while maintaining a job, can also be a factor. And housing conditions and affordability can be another factor affecting mental health as housing prices sky-rocket and securing an affordable place to live is more difficult than ever in the GTA.
The Impact of Mental Health Issues
82% of those who reported having a mental health issue stated that the illness has impacted their work. Thus, those dealing with mental health issues aren’t the only ones suffering. According to the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis and Morneau Shepell, the impact of employee mental health problems estimated over the next decade will be almost $17 billion in lost productivity. Companies will feel the effects of poor mental health on their bottom lines. And the region as a whole may see reduced economic potential due to this lost productivity as well.
How to Support Mental Well-Being at Work
It’s clear that businesses must step up when it comes to their employees’ emotional and mental well-being. Currently, more than half of all employers do not have a mental health strategy in place. Many employers cite lack of knowledge to address mental health as their largest barrier to implementing such a strategy. Others cite lack of human resources or time, lack of financial resources, or lack of legal requirement to do so as their primary reasons.
However, employers who make mental well-being a priority in the workplace can gain a competitive advantage with reduced healthcare costs and benefits use, increased productivity, enhanced morale, and better employee attraction and retention.
To provide a better workplace environment for your employees with mental health issues, consider these tips:
- Encourage management to talk openly and honestly about mental health in the workplace. By exchanging ideas and knowledge surrounding mental health in the workplace, you can shape the direction of future care and remove stigmas that discourage employees from speaking up and getting help.
- Put in place a company-wide policy to address mental health at work.
- Train both employees and managers to recognize signs of mental illness and how to respond to signs of distress.
- Offer and promote employee and family assistance programs.
- Learn more about the national standard for psychological health and safety at work in Canada.
Create medical consultation and assessment services to help workers identify and proactively manage psychological health problems.