Where do you spend most of your time? I don’t know about you but I spend it at work. Don’t we all spend more of our waking hours at work than anywhere else? Wouldn’t it be great if our workplaces were places where mental health and wellbeing was a priority?
The statistics on workplace mental health issues are sobering. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, in any given week close to 500,000 Canadians will miss work because of a mental health concern or illness. 30 % of disability claims in Canada are related to mental health issues. The cost to the economy is in the billions. The cost in human terms is incalculable. Much of this could be avoided by ensuring our workplaces are mentally healthy places to be.
How do we go about doing that? In January 2013 Canada launched The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the Standard) is the first of its kind in the world. “The Standard is a document that outlines a systematic approach to develop and sustain a psychologically healthy and safe workplace. It focuses on mental illness prevention and mental health promotion. The Standard is intended for everyone, whether or not they live with a mental illness”. 
The Mental Health Commission has resources, evaluation tools, webinars and video testimonials from champion organizations that have adopted the Standard. It’s practical and offers sensible easy suggestions for implementation.
Of course the Mental Health Commission isn’t the only resource/support for organizations that are serious about addressing mental health issues in the workplace. Mental Health Works is a nationally available program of the Canadian Mental Health Association. The Employee and Employer Supports sections of their website are chock-full of tools and practical information.
Another excellent resource is Workplace Strategies for mental health, an initiative of the Great West Life Centre for Mental Health.  All of their tools and resources are free. And they say on the website, “use them to help make a difference”.
For something a little different -Skyworks Charitable Foundation has made a documentary aimed at overcoming stigma in the workplace titled “Working Life”.  The film “introduces us to four adults who grew up in families struggling with mental health difficulties. They reflect on some of the challenges facing their parents, both as parents and as breadwinners, and how their experiences shaped their own goals and expectations.” Skyworks provides a toolkit for using the film in anti-stigma training.
The emphasis with all of these resources is on understanding mental health problems and illness, reducing stigma, learning ways to offer support to our colleagues and promoting healthy work behaviours and resilience.
I like that they acknowledge it’s not just up to employers – we all have a responsibility for our own mental health and for making our workplaces psychologically healthy and safe.
We all have a role to play.
Dawn M. Schell, MA, CCC, CCDP is an affiliate of Worldwide Therapy Online Inc. http://www.therapyonline.ca