Not-for-profit health and benefits company launches new program
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one out of every five Canadians experiences a mental illness in any given year. By the time Canadians reach 40 years old, half of them have either dealt with or are currently experiencing a mental illness.
GreenShield, Canada's not-for-profit health and benefits company, has partnered with Canadian broadcaster and mental health advocate Michael Landsberg to launch First Step, a groundbreaking program fostering open and relatable conversations about mental health.
“The first time I knew Canadians needed a program like First Step was in 2009 when I initially shared my battle with severe depression and anxiety on national television. I was immediately struck by the overwhelming response, specifically the level of loneliness people felt. Since then, we've made a lot of strides as a society, but we've failed to reduce the stigma around mental health,” says Landsberg.
A 2019 Ipsos survey found that 75 percent of working Canadians expressed reluctance or a refusal to disclose a mental illness to either an employer or a co-worker. The survey found that individuals were almost three times less likely to disclose a mental illness, such as depression, compared to a physical ailment like cancer.
The primary reasons for this hesitancy included the perceived stigma surrounding mental illness, the desire to avoid being treated differently or judged, and the fear of negative consequences, including job loss.
“Those suffering are three times less likely to disclose a mental illness than a physical illness. I teamed up with GreenShield to bring the First Step program to life in order to change that. The program will strip down the clinical conversation, share real, unfiltered lived experiences and do it all in a format people actually want to engage with,” Landsberg adds.
“Our partnership with Michael will unlock mental health topics in a way that's never been done before with the hope that we can shed the stigma once and for all,” says Joe Blomeley, executive vice president and head of GreenShield health and enterprise growth.
First Step is the ‘anti-webinar’
First Step introduces a monthly 60-minute entertainment platform, hosted by Landsberg, that will feature interviews with guests ranging from celebrities to everyday professionals. In contrast to traditional corporate mental health discussions, this platform, dubbed the ‘anti-webinar’, delves into topics derived from real-life experiences rather than medical texts.
Accompanying the show are eight digital modules for GreenShield clients, featuring interviews dispelling myths and misconceptions about mental health.
“Unfortunately, mental health issues remain shrouded in stigma, falsehoods and misconceptions. Discussions around mental health tend to be overly clinical and, at times, inaccessible to the average Canadian - dissuading people from seeking help,” adds Blomeley.
“We speak from the heart and not from a textbook. We speak the way Canadians talk - not corporate or clinical, but real and relatable,” Landsberg says.
As part of the partnership, Landsberg assumes the role of national mental health ambassador for GreenShield.
The First Step program will be available to all GreenShield plan sponsors in 2024.