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Workplace Mental Health

Why should employers care about the mental health of their employees?

According to a study commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in 2011, mental illnesses cost Canadian employers more than 6 BILLION dollars in lost productivity; this includes losses due to absenteeism or sick days, “presenteeism” (coming to work, even when the employee cannot work well), employee turnover, and disability and other benefits.

Here are some other startling facts about mental illness in the workplace (adapted from Quick Facts: Mental Illness and Addictions in Canada/Mood Disorders Society of Canada):

* 75% of short term disability claims in Canada are related to mental illness

* 79% of long term disability claims in Canada are related to mental illness

* 31% of employers have plans to address mental health and mental illness in the workplace

* Depression is the fastest growing category of disability costs to Canadian employers

* Employers will save, per employee per year, $5000 - $10,000 in average wage replacement, sick leave and prescription drug costs for those employees who get treatment

* 3 in 10 Canadian employees report they work in environments that are not psychologically safe or healthy

The good news is that we are starting to pay more attention to workplace mental health. In fact, in 2013 the Mental Health Commission of Canada launched the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. The Standard is a voluntary tool to guide organizations across all sizes and sectors to improve workplace psychological health and safety.

Putting this standard in place and adopting mentally healthy workplace practices just make good sense. They can help an organization demonstrate their commitment to the health of employees, boost recruitment and retention efforts, enhance productivity, and minimize costs tied to disability and other benefits.

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To this end, we are starting to recognize businesses that have some of these positive workplace practices in place. I work closely with the Kelowna branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (www.cmhakelowna.com) and I am a member of the Mentally Healthy Workplace Award Committee. This award recognizes local businesses here in Kelowna for their efforts to foster employee mental health. Gentle Dental and the University of British Columbia Okanagan were award recipients in 2015.

Stay tuned for information on how you can nominate a business in the community who you think promotes mental health in their workplace.