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Leaders looking for help on mental health have a new playbook

CAMH unveils 'research-informed recommendations' to help employers, senior leaders build healthy organizations


January 24, 2020
By Todd Humber


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Photo: Getty Images

Leaders and organizations looking for help with mental health in the workplace have a new playbook — literally — from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

The Workplace Mental Health Playbook for Business Leaders is billed as “research-informed recommendations from Canada’s foremost mental health hospital and global leader in mental health research.”

“After decades of working with organizations around the world to advance diversity and inclusion, I firmly believe that mental health is one of the most important issues facing workplaces today,” said Deborah Gillis, president and CEO of the CAMH Foundation. “By stepping forward to not only address, but to champion mental health in the workplace, business leaders have the opportunity to help ignite and unleash their employees’ full potential.”

Huge cost for employers

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The toll that mental health takes on the workplace is enormous by any measure — 30 per cent of disability claims in Canada are mental-health related, and they account for more than 70 per cent of all disability costs.

It also adds up to a lot of empty chairs — 500,000 Canadians miss work every week due to mental illness. And, if you want to put a price tag on it, the cumulative cost of mental illness is expected to hit $2.5 trillion by 2041.

What’s in the playbook

The playbook, available as a free PDF, contains five key recommendations  for Canadian business leaders. They are:

  1. Create a long-term, organization wide mental health strategy
  2. Institute mandatory mental health training for leadership
  3. Develop tailored mental health supports
  4. Prioritize and optimize your return-to-work process checklist
  5. Track your progress

Real stories from real employers 

The playbook also includes a number of case studies, including a look at the “You Are Not Alone” initiative from Maple Leaf Foods.

The company engaged 140 of its employees at three different locations to talk mental health, their feelings around psychological safety at the company and what changes were necessary.

“(It is) about making employees feel safe when talking about their mental health and reaching out for support,” said Peter Neufeld, vice-president of leadership at Maple Leaf Foods. “With our comprehensive mental health strategy, we are sending a clear message that we take their mental wellness seriously.”

Maple Leaf Foods worked with CAMH to develop a strategy that included four strategic pillars:

  1. Ease of access to effective supports: Improving the quality and breadth of supports, as well as awareness of these supports and how to access them.
  2. Accommodation: Providing best-in-class accommodation in a consistent fashion.
  3. Stopping the stigma: Creating a safe space for open dialogue.
  4. Mental health training and education: Providing mandatory training for leaders, and offering optional education for employees.

To download your free copy of the playbook, visit https://camh.ca/en/health-info/workplace-mental-health-playbook-for-business-leaders