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Mental health at work

Monday September 22, 2014 Written by 
A number of leading Canadian employers have committed to addressing mental illness in workplaces across the country.

On Sept. 19, representatives from the Economic Club of Canada, Lundbeck Canada, Excellence Canada, Cookson James Loyalty and Mental Health International joined Margaret Trudeau, a mental health advocate, in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to motivate Canadian business leaders to address mental illness in the workplace.

The MOU outlines a commitment that will help employers protect and improve the psychological health and safety of their employees and to reduce the costs of mental illness in Canada. These costs, including health care expenses and lost productivity, are estimated to total more than $51-billion annually.

"So many Canadians suffer in silence and feel they cannot come forward for help. It's an affliction that affects people of all ages, education, income levels and cultures across Canada as well as around the world," said Joseph Ricciuti, co-founder of Mental Health International. "Seven out of 10 Canadians with depression are in the workforce. Good health is not possible without good mental health, so it is good business to have employees who are psychologically healthy and safe, and managers who are sensitive to the impact of their decisions on employee mental health."

A snapshot of mental health in Canada

A recent global workplace survey conducted by Ipsos Mori, which included Canadian employees and employers, highlighted the stark reality of mental illness in workplaces across Canada:

  • Of the workers reporting a depression diagnosis, 40 per cent did not tell their employer about their problem. This was above the global average of 33 per cent, and was second only to the United States, where 58 per cent did not tell their employer about their diagnosis.
  • One-quarter of employees diagnosed with depression (24 per cent) could not continue to work during their last episode of depression, with an average of more than two months off work during that episode. This resulted in an average of 49 lost working days, considerably higher than the global average of 32 lost days.

"One in five Canadians will be touched by mental illness or mental health related problems in their lifetime so we know this is a societal issue that affects families," said Patrick Cashman, president and general manager of Lundbeck Canada. "But it also affects the economy. In fact, for Canadian companies, mental illness and mental health-related problems impact four per cent of the working population and equates to $20-billion GDP in lost productivity."

Uniting for healthier workplaces

As part of a so-called "coordinated assault" to change the face of health care in Canada, Ricciuti joined for a panel discussion by:

  • Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada
  • Mary Deacon, chair of Bell Canada's Let's Talk Campaign
  • Dr. Roger McIntyre, head of the mood disorders psychopharmacology unit at the University Health Network (UHN)
  • Dr. Claire de Oliveira, independent scientist/health economist at CAMH
  • Mary Ann Baynton, program director for the Great West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace
  • Karen Jackson, senior advisor with Excellence Canada

As the partners make their way across Canada to meet with business leaders, they will be rewarding executives and their employees for taking action immediately to implement mental health at work standards by participating in the Wellth Management Mental Health at Work Challenge. 

Using Cookson James Loyalty's BestLifeRewarded platform, the challenge provides businesses with a step-by-step introduction to implementing the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Leaders can rally employees as they carry out tasks, use health tracking tools and take part in exercises that aligne with the challenge milestones.

"The challenge enables leadership to rally their employees around the effort, which improves engagement and supports sustainable health behaviour change. We are excited about validating the positive impact of the BestLifeRewarded platform for this challenge," said Suzanne Cookson, co-founder of Cookson James Loyalty Inc., the founder of the wellness incentive platform.

The learning modules that enable the mental health at work standards are provided by program partner Excellence Canada.

"Fostering psychological health and safety at work is a shared responsibility between employers and employees," said Allan Ebedes, president and CEO of Excellence Canada. "This Mental Health at Work Challenge exemplifies the spirit of cooperation that must engage and involve all stakeholders, from senior leaders to front line staff, in sustainable and measurable improvement."

For more information about the Wellth Management Mental Health At Work Challenge, visit

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