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Effective prevention, Early detection of mental health issues needed

Adrienne Sannachan

The time has come to create a psychologically safe and health workplace.

If there we ever a need for psychologically safe and healthy workplace, it is now. Most new jobs today demand cerebral, not manual skills. This change defines what we call a brain-based economy, where brain-based mental disorders are the leading causes of workplace disability, according to information  from the Global Business and Economic Round Table on Addiction and Mental Health.

The Mental Heath Commission’s statistics on the state of psychological health among Canadian employers support taking immediate action:

- Mental illness cost Canadian businesses more that $6 billion in lost productivity due to absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover in 2011. (Presenteeism is the term used to describe the act of being physically present but mentally disengaged at work, resulting in lost productivity.)

- One in five Canadians experience a mental health concern in any given year compared to one in 25 for heart disease and one in 15 for type 2 diabetes.

- More than 28% of people aged 20 to 29 experience a mental illness in a given year; and by age 40, one in two Canadians will have had or have a mental health condition.

- Mental illness is the leading cause of disability claims in Canada and is expected to grow.

Managing mental health can help reduce productivity losses.

Given this trend and the amount of time Canadians spend at work, it is widely recognized that more effective prevention and early detection of mental health issues are required. Management of psychological health in the workplace can help employers reduce productivity losses while maintaining a more sustainable workforce.

to help employers respond to these challenges, the Mental Health Commission of Canada championed the development and release of the globe’s first voluntary national standard onPsychological health and safety in the workplace – Prevention, promotion and guidance to staged implementation (referred to here as the Standard) the Standard was released in January and is available at no cost on the MHCC website at

The goal of the Standard is to take a complex issue and make it easier to implement.

It outlines the steps necessary to prevent mental injury, reduce psychological risk and promote a healthier workplace. the vision cited in the Standard is “a workplace that promotes workers’ psychological well being and allows no harm to worker mental health in negligent, reckless or intentional ways.” Essentially, employees should be able to go to work and perform their job to the best of their ability and leave the workplace psychologically unharmed.

The true cost involved in adopting the Standard is time.

The Standard follows a plan, do, check, act format requiring commitment and engagement, planning, implementation, evolution/ corrective action and management review and continual improvement.

Secure the benefits of a healthy workplace.

Research shows that engaged employees are more productive employees, which contributes to superior business performance. The culture of a psychologically safe and healthy workplace will have benefits that extend beyond the walls of the workplace, into families, communities and Canadian society.

While adopting the standard will not eliminate mental health disorders, it will help employers reduce the risks in their workplace.

Benefits of a psychologically safe and healthy workplace

A more engaged workforce

Enhanced productivity

Increased retention

Fewer workplace accidents

Reduced absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover

Reduced disability incidence

Appropriate drug plan utilization related to compliance with prescribed medication

Reduced workplace conflicts, grievances

Improved business performance.