Canadian workplaces must prioritize mental health, advocates say

Advocates stress the importance of psychological safety at work, urging proactive mental health measures

Canadian workplaces must prioritize mental health, advocates say

Canada implemented its national standard for addressing mental health in the workplace just over 10 years ago.    

Now, in a City News report, mental health advocates stress the importance of psychological safety at work, equating it to physical safety.    

“We want everyone to really think about, what do I need to do in the workplace that creates a safe environment for other people,” said Orianne Donig-Harder, manager of employment workplace solutions at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).    

The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that 70 percent of Canadian employees worry about the psychological safety of their workplace, with 14 percent doubting its safety.    

Donig-Harder highlighted that when workers do not feel safe, absenteeism and presenteeism—where employees are present but unproductive—are common issues.    

Workplaces that neglect mental health are becoming less acceptable, particularly among younger generations. Statistics show that 50 percent of millennials and 75 percent of Gen Z have left jobs due to poor psychological safety.    

Donig-Harder recommends that employers regularly check in with employees and build positive relationships to facilitate difficult conversations when needed. She also noted that proactive mental health measures are crucial.    

Collen Bula, now working with Special Olympics, left her previous job due to its negative impact on her mental health. She observed that some employers believe poor mental health equates to being a poor employee, co-worker, and person.    

Bula shared that her current workplace prioritizes mental health, making a significant positive difference.  

Brad Hewlett, a Winnipeg business owner, prioritizes his team’s wellbeing. “I do my best to make sure that we treat people with absolute dignity and respect,” said Hewlett, who owns The Forks Trading Company and Two Rivers at The Forks. He believes respectful treatment leads to better performance.    

The CMHA in Winnipeg partnered with Red River Polytech for a new micro-credential training program focusing on psychological health in the workplace. The first session in mid-June included participants from various roles such as employers, human resources, and employees.  

More sessions are planned for the fall, and interested parties can contact CMHA Winnipeg for details. 

“Most workplaces have their traditional workplace health and safety programs. We want to introduce psychological health and safety and have that be the same focus as the physical safety of our workers,” Donig-Harder emphasized.