Organizations Target Anxiety Research

With increased investment in anxiety research, understanding, prevention, and support are emerging as top priorities

Organizations Target Anxiety Research

Did you know that nearly one third of Canadians suffer from a high level of anxiety? That’s four times greater than before the pandemic.

And it is why Beneva chose to tackle this growing issue. This theme will drive its social and philanthropic action nationwide and, hopefully, encourage real social change by developing innovative research programs and making sure people have access to efficient tools.

The turmoil caused by the COVID-19 health crisis had a major impact on mental health in the workplace. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar problems have become major issues. Optimizing healthy performance in an environment that promotes wellbeing can be a challenge in this new working environment.

Accelerating Research

It was with this in mind that it is investing in a Faculty of Health of Toronto’s York University project to create the Anxiety Research Fund, a fund that is entirely dedicated to accelerating research into this important issue.

A number of organizations are targeting anxiety. These include Fondation Jeunes en Tête, FitSpirit, Oasis Immersion, Société des arts technologiques, and the Centre d’expertise en gestion de la santé et de la sécurité au travail at Université Laval.

These are starting to bear fruit. In June 2021, it contributed to driving the creation of the Relief Research Chair in Mental Health, Self-Management, and Work at Université Laval.

In a sense, the Relief Research Chair in Mental Health, Self-Management, and Work meets a post-pandemic collective need. The current context highlights the need for workplaces to align mental health interventions with fact-based research evidence. That’s the case for self-management in mental health. Although it appears to be promising, there is very little fact-based evidence supporting current approaches.

The relief research chair will help advance scientific knowledge to align it with existing practical and experiential knowledge.

Impact On Mental Health

As part of its partnership with the chair, Beneva collaborated in developing a survey for employees in small and medium-size companies throughout Canada in February 2022.

The goal was to get a snapshot of the mental health indicators and knowledge and the ability to self-manage as well as the individual and organizational demand and resources that can have an impact on mental health.

The intent is to provide tools to help plan sponsors keep their employees at work and in good mental and physical health. That’s why this approach focused on the health continuum to support insureds from start to finish, throughout their active work life.

The first results were divulged and the main observations are telling. The mental health of employees must be a top organizational priority and there are various ways to achieve this. These include:

Reinforcing a safe psychosocial environment within the company

The development of a strong health and well-being culture within an organization is an important element for creating an environment that promotes good psychological health. The question is, however, how do you achieve this?

Establishing a strategic framework focusing on employee health with resources dedicated to it is a place to start.

This also needs to be communicated efficiently.

Other measures include developing a health policy or improving an existing one and surveying employees about their perceptions and concerns regarding a safe psychosocial environment.

Within a company, these actions show management’s formal commitment to prioritizing psychological health.

Press on with prevention efforts to reduce psychosocial risks at work

The second finding was the importance of work components on the employees’ health and well-being. To instill a culture of health, it’s imperative to implement a way to identify and evaluate the presence of psychosocial risks in the company.

These risks usually involve workload, autonomy to make decisions, recognition, support from management or peers, psychological harassment, information, and communication.

By following these indicators, you may be able to anticipate certain events and act in a proactive rather than reactive manner.

Develop training on emotional support for managers

Social support provides protection and is a significant prevention mechanism that fosters good mental health.

As managers, it’s crucial to know the support measures so you can apply them each time an employee facing difficulties needs help. It means knowing these resources exist, but also what they offer and under which circumstances or situations they can be helpful.

Increase the promotion of workplace mental health and well-being programs and simplify access to them

Communication remains a challenge for many organizations, regardless of size. That’s why it’s important to adopt a multi-channel approach and establish a communication plan.

There are many ways to communicate. For example, you could promote internal health and well-being resources and programs during annual public awareness campaign events such as Mental Health Week.

You must not only communicate, but make them easily accessible. This means offering a variety of mental health support services to limit barriers and ensure that all employees, regardless of personality, experience, culture, beliefs, or preferences can have access to support that meets their needs.

Take a more extensive look at the needs of various sub-groups of people to tailor the interventions to the organizational or sociocultural context

It’s important to offer a diversified array of tools that can prevent mental health problems. This means:

  • Get involved in committees
  • Create partnerships with organizations representing various sub-groups to get a better understanding of their reality or who can provide services for specific clients
  • Pay close attention to certain pilot projects
  • Use different methods (tools/languages, etc.) to survey employees.

In today’s organizations, it’s people that are the most valuable asset. Our clients are more than just clients, they’re people ... human beings who each have a story.

Eric Trudel is Executive Vice-President and Leader of Group Insurance at Beneva.