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Canadian Standard Addresses Workplace Mental Health

In acknowledgment of the toll that depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders can take on workplaces, Canada has released its first national standard for workplace mental health and safety.

Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace – Prevention, Promotion, and Guidance to Staged Implementation is a voluntary standard that will help Canadian employers develop and improve work environments that enhance employee wellbeing and better assist those who are dealing with mental health issues.

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LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck

“For various reasons, including stigma and fear of job loss, mental health is not usually discussed openly in the workplace,” says LHSFNA’s Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. This standard is the first of its kind in Canada. Hopefully, it will open discussions about mental health and the ways in which both employers and employees benefit when mental health is addressed.”

The standard, which can be downloaded for free, provides a template for putting new practices in place that help ensure a workplace is psychologically healthy and for gauging practices that are already established. The standard also includes a Psychological Health & Safety Action Guide for Employers.

The guidance document aims to get employers to:

  • Consider the mental well-being of employees and identify hazards;
  • Assess workplace hazards such as stressors from job demands;
  • Strive for work/life balance;
  • Help workers feel they are treated with fairness, respect and are rewarded for their contributions; and
  • Address prevention, promotion and implementation, such as through audit tools.

Mirroring the United States, mental illness in Canada is a major source of workplace absenteeism, lost productivity and disability claims. One in five Canadians will experience a mental illness during his or her lifetime. Mental health problems cost Canadian employers about $20 billion annually and account for over three-quarters of short-term disability claims. Though mental illness is highly treatable, a company’s bottom line suffers when employees do not get the help they need.

The standard was developed jointly by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ) and the Canadian Standard Association (CSA). The Canadian government, Bell Canada and Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace provided funding.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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