In less than 10 years, Canada has seen a remarkable transformation. In 2007, we were the only country in the G-8 without a mental health strategy.

In the intervening decade, as a result of seminal works like Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada, our country has become a widely recognized international leader in the field.

This sea change is also rooted in unique and forward-thinking programs and initiatives that address mental health within our communities, in our schools and, crucially, where we work.

Total workplace wellness

Many of us spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our families. So it makes sense, from a community-building perspective, to ensure those workplaces are as safe as possible. But we need to be very clear: safety in the workplace goes beyond hard hats and steel-toed boots. It encompasses a person’s total wellness.

And given that mental health problems and illnesses are the number one cause of both short and long-term disability claims in Canada, the business case for this investment is written in black and white. That’s why, in partnership with the Canadian Standards Association Group, and the Quebec equivalent – BNQ – the MHCC developed and launched the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

"Given that mental illnesses cost the Canadian economy some $51 billion annually, stemming the financial tide is paramount."

Setting new standards

The first of its kind in the world, the ‘Standard’ helps Canadian employers create, and continuously improve, psychologically healthy and safe environments for workers.

It’s hard to understate the ripple effect of creating healthy workplaces. By reducing stigma in the workplace, and increasing knowledge, employees are more likely to get help.  Seeking help earlier is a recipe for increased productivity or earlier return to work.  This in turn results in a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line, and so on.

The Working Mind is another key program targeting stigma reduction in the workplace.  It uses the Mental Health Continuum Model to help people understand the state of their own mental well-being through an easy to understand four-colour continuum.  In concert with recognizing a mental health problem, employees are also equipped with evidence-based coping skills.

Adressing stigma

Given that mental illnesses cost the Canadian economy some $51 billion annually, stemming the financial tide is paramount.  However, it’s difficult to put a price on the emotional anguish endured by Canadians who are faced with the double diagnoses of symptoms and stigma.

A study about stigma conducted by the Canadian Medical Association found that 46 percent of Canadians believe that “we call some things mental illness because it gives some people an excuse for their poor behaviours and personal failings.”

Put simply, that’s 46 percent too many.