The Fundamentals - Mental Health / Psychological Disorders

"One in five Canadians meets the criteria for having a mental illness in their lifetime affecting work, home and personal interactions: 24.1 percent of women and 17.0 percent of men."

Government of Canada, The Human Face of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Canada, 2006

As with any other employee living with a disability, a manager has a role to play in assisting employees with mental health problems so that they can maximize their potential in a healthy work environment.

Early intervention can help prevent minor symptoms from becoming disabling conditions.

Suggested interventions based on best practices, as researched by Health Canada's Environmental Scan on Workplace Health in Canada, include the following:

Workplace Interventions

Workforce (General)

Evaluated as best practices:

  • Conducting workplace stress assessments;
  • Changing features of the work environment (such as workload, schedule, work processes and procedures);
  • Addressing job demand and control (stabilizing work teams, clarifying roles and responsibilities, delegating work, favouring employee discretion and choice);
  • Training and education (conflict management, communication skills, relaxation techniques);
  • Developing a workplace mental health policy;
  • Providing employee access to an Employee Assistance Program and mental health risk screening; and
  • Guarding Minds at Work has a developed a useful tool outlining proactive measures to prevent psychological distress.

Workforce (High-Risk Groups)

Interventions for high-risk groups and workers already displaying symptoms:

  • Providing employees with tools they can use to adjust their response to stressors in the workplace; and
  • Providing for rehabilitation and return-to-work strategies.

Evaluated as best practices:

  • Training: Provide employees with tools they can use to adjust their response to stressors in the workplace (psycho-education, stress management, self-awareness, benefits and disclosure training, workplace hardening);
  • Stress management (combination strategies: skill development, social support, job redesign);
  • Work-facilitated treatment (enhanced depressive care model, cognitive behavioural therapy);
  • Early intervention and ongoing contact;
  • Workplace accommodation and return-to-work plan development; and
  • Ongoing psycho-social support for reintegration / return to work.
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