Mental Health in the Workplace

TORONTO, Oct. 6 /CNW/ - The recent economic downturn highlighted a very important issue facing workplaces today, mental health. Many workers have experienced stress and anxiety due to the recent recession. Whether it was corporate downsizing or company shutdowns, the stress and uncertainty has taken its toll on both workers and companies. For some, work-related stress is considered to be a "normal" part of the work environment and can easily be dealt with. However, for others these stressors can cause great emotional and physical distress to the point where they aren't able to properly function on a daily basis.

With World Mental Health Day taking place on October 10, 2009, employers and employees can take this opportunity to become more aware and educated about mental health issues affecting their workplaces. These issues need to be addressed as poor mental health affects the safety, health, and well-being of not just the individual but organizations as well.

Recent statistics show that mental illness affects one in five Canadians,(1) most commonly presenting itself in the form of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. The effect has had a staggering impact on the workplace as everyday, 500,000 Canadian workers are absent from work due to mental health problems(2). Furthermore, mental illness costs the Canadian economy $51 billion each year(3).

During challenging economic times, employers need to reassure their employees that they are looking after their best interests and well-being. In order to become a healthy workplace, organizations need to collaborate with their employees to ensure that their physical and psychological needs are being met. Here are some tips on how to address mental health issues in the workplace.

    
    -   Recognize that mental health issues do exist in the workplace.
        When addressing the mental health of their workforce, organizations
        need to look at how individuals and the company as a whole are
        affected by it. One aspect that must be considered is the role
        workplaces play in creating mental health issues. For example,
        suddenly increasing an employee's workload may increase that person's
        stress levels, which could have devastating effects. By understanding
        psychological hazards and determining which workplace practices
        contribute to mental harm, companies can initiate policies,
        procedures, and programs that will create a safe environment where
        people can comfortably and safely work.

    -   Equip workplaces with the right tools to recognize and address mental
        health in the workplace.
        Despite the fact that poor mental health affects employee
        productivity, creativity, and initiative, many organizations don't
        have the resources to deal with health issues such as depression and
        anxiety. Providing staff with information, resources, and training
        about mental health will give them greater awareness and
        understanding about the issue. It will also help them eliminate any
        stigmas or preconceived notions they may have about mental illnesses.
        Organizations that demonstrate this kind of awareness, support, and
        hope will create an environment where staff can confidently seek
        diagnosis and treatment.

    -   People are an organization's most important assets.
        While organizations spend money on ensuring their worker's physical
        health and safety needs are being met, attention should also be
        directed towards their psychological needs. When employers hire
        individuals, they are hiring the individual as a whole and not just
        their ability to do a job. Ensuring the mental health of the
        workforce shows employees that they are valued and essential to the
        organization.
    

Addressing the mental health of employees can create a healthy workplace and boost organizational performance and the bottom line. Investing in the mental health of staff shows that employers are making health and safety a priority. By providing the necessary support, resources, and motivation, people can adopt healthy habits to ensure their mental health both at work and at home.

Submitted by IAPA (Industrial Accident Prevention Association), a not-for-profit organization operating in Ontario since 1917. Representing more than 50,000 member firms and in excess of 1.5 million Ontario workers, IAPA is Canada's leader in workplace health, safety, and employee well-being.

    
    ----------------------
    (1) Canadian Institute of Health Research.
    (2) Insurance Journal 2003, Government of Canada in The Human Face of
        Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada, 2006
    (3) Dr. Carolyn Dewa, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
    

SOURCE INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT PREVENTION ASSOCIATION

For further information: For further information: Lena Wan, Communications and PR Specialist, IAPA (Industrial Accident Prevention Association), Tel: (905) 614-4272, ext. 2247, E-mail: lwan@iapa.ca

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INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT PREVENTION ASSOCIATION

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