First Step to focus on mental health for members, implementing action

GreenShield exec highlights the benefits of its mental health program, including a famous Canadian broadcaster.

First Step to focus on mental health for members, implementing action

Mental health plays an essential role in how people think, feel, and act. It also influences how an individual perceives and functions in the world around them. Between 2003 and 2021, the percentage of Canadians who perceived their mental health as fair or poor more than doubled and according to CAMH, mental illness receives just 7 percent of health care dollars. Additionally, by the time Canadians reach their 40s, 1 in 2 have – or will have had – a mental illness.

While these can be alarming stats, there is light at the end of the tunnel. GreenShield has teamed up with mental health advocate and famed Canadian broadcaster Michael Landsberg, creating a partnership called First Step, “a first-of-its-kind program exclusively from GreenShield aimed at igniting relatable mental health dialogue.”

“What we're hoping to do with this particular program is create a safe space for folks to come forward and talk about their lived experiences to have those experiences cascade down to employees of different organizations and to ultimately give a safe space for people to talk about the issues that they're personally grappling with,” says Joe Blomeley, executive vice president and head of GreenShield’s health and enterprise growth. “[That will] ultimately give them a pathway to find the services and treatment that they need to ensure they get the mental health support that they require.”

Unfortunately, utilization of mental health services remains low, Blomeley says, however, it's better than it was 10-15 years ago. “We also know that there are significant portions of the population that are still unwilling to come forward and talk about their mental health issues, and part of that is mental health issues have been highly clinicalized in the way that it's discussed, feels very medical and almost research-oriented and a bit overly sanitized.”

While it won’t launch until later this year for GreenShield plan sponsors, First Step will be for anybody who wants to better the mental health options for their employees and be part of the movement to bust stigma in the mental health space. “It's ultimately for anyone, whether you're a small business or a small association, whether you're a medium-sized enterprise that’s scaling up or a large established organization, we want to find ways to take this program and modify it, to fit each individual organization's needs,” Blomeley said.

The First Step program will launch through a 3-step structure, Blomeley explains. The first step will commence with a monthly 60-minute entertainment platform, hosted by Landsberg, that will consist of him talking about mental health issues as well as guests who will talk about their lived experiences. The second component will be a modular training program where Landsberg will take specific issues as it relates to mental health and provide examples of services and treatment that are available to organizations. The final piece will have Landsberg engaging within the workplace setting and visiting select employers and organizations to help bring the program to life.

The most important piece of the First Step program, Blomeley adds, will be that it’s not only going to engage and entertain but most importantly, educate people, ensuring they get the proper support when they need it most.

“For someone who is an employee that may be going through a challenge in silence and knowing that Michael has gone through this, or some of the guests that he brings on, who will [also] come from all walks of life and have gone through similar challenges, I think will create the level of comfort around seeking help,” he said. “It will also create a map or a template around how you get that help, while also educating you on what's available to you and your benefit plan, but also what's available to you through the public health system.

“This journey is so important for all of us to be on, and we want to make sure that we're not leaving anybody behind,” Blomeley said.