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Section 4 - Resources for employers

Mental health resources

Mental Health Works

Mental Health Works (MHW), a national social enterprise of the Canadian Mental Health Association, provides workplace mental-health training to organizations worldwide. MHW is dedicated to advancing the field of workplace mental health through skills enhancement training, awareness education and stigma-reduction efforts. It helps employers respond appropriately when employees experience mental-health problems and effectively manage performance and productivity issues. It is founded on the belief that focusing on solutions around mental-health issues in the workplace will benefit employers and employees alike. MHW users are asked to complete a workshop for better understanding. By the end of the workshop you should be able to:

  • Have a better understanding of mental health.
  • Be more able to recognize signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses at work.
  • Start to build confidence in having conversations around mental-health concerns.
  • Build greater comfort in seeking help for themselves and others.
  • Be more aware of where to look and how to ask for resources.
  • See the important role of mental health in maintaining a healthy and safe workplace.
  • Consider strategies to address issues relating to health and safety from a mental-health lens.

Diversity Works –Accommodations in the Workplace for People with Mental Illness

If you have hired, or are considering hiring an employee with a mental illness, they may need accommodation to maintain their employment. This guidebook provides employers with information about accommodating people with psychiatric disabilities in the workplace. Guidelines include:

  • Avoid using abnormality or difference to describe someone as if it is the full description of the person; e.g. "She’s a schizophrenic."
  • Avoid terms that suggest pity or fear; e.g. "He suffers from chronic depression."
  • Don’t use slang or common terms that are demeaning; e.g. "insane, crazy, lunatic," etc.
  • A more appropriate description would be "person who has a mental illness."
  • Create an environment where accommodations are accepted by addressing the individual needs of the employee.
  • Respect the employee’s desire for confidentiality and identity, specifically the form and degree of confidentiality.
  • Be willing to engage in joint problem-solving.
  • Some people prefer to be interviewed individually rather than in a group, especially if they want to disclose a need for accommodation.
  • Offer management training to supervisors to reinforce or improve their ability to provide clear direction and constructive feedback.
  • Provide sensitivity training for co-workers about disabilities and why people with disabilities need accommodation.

Strategies for Success: A Consumer’s Guide to the Workplace

This resource guide was developed for the Access to Real Work project of the Canadian Mental Health Association – National office. It includes two sections: the first one, Hints on employment, provides guidelines for new employees and what to expect; the second one focuses on workplace accommodations. The information comes from career counsellors and the personal experiences of consumers. Guidelines include:

  • Having flexible work hours depending on the individual’s situation.
  • Modifying a workstation to allow more privacy for someone who has difficulty with concentrating.
  • Providing a job coach for someone who needs social support at work.

Action Steps to Real Work

This document is organized according to three different target groups: employers, mental health service providers and consumers of mental health services. The suggested strategies aim to provide steps for each of these groups to enable them, when working together, to maximize the possibilities for successful employment. Strategies include:

  • Be flexible in enforcing traditional policies. There may be several ways to get a job done, and you may want to rethink the way you have always done things.
  • Adjust training to the employee’s individual needs, and keep it clear and supportive.
  • Develop human resource principles that are positive and constructive.
  • Know your limits. As an employer, you want to support your employees to do their jobs, but your role is not to provide counselling or therapy.
  • Set boundaries of accommodations so there is no room for misunderstanding.

Psychological Health and Safety: An Action Guide for Employers

Mental-health problems have a powerful and expanding impact in the workplace; yet, strategies for assessment prevention and treatment of mental health problems in the workplace are underdeveloped and underused. The gap between the need for and use of effective models can be partially explained by limited access to relevant knowledge. While there is considerable literature on the prevalence and nature of mental-health problems in the workplace, practical solutions to these problems are harder to identify. This action guide provides a logical approach to moving forward with the psychological health and safety strategies. Still, in the early stages of understanding this complex area, this guide will make progress in identifying effective strategies through research and innovative workplace programs. This guide is based on the best and most comprehensive information currently available. Guidelines include: 

  • Educate staff at all levels about respectful workplace principles.
  • Provide stress-management training.
  • Support work-home balance if possible.

Return to Work: Early warning signs of mental health problems at work

As with many things, taking action early is likely to prevent problems getting more serious and causing major difficulties later on. This resource reveals the early warning signs of mental health problems at work and how to respond appropriately and effectively when you notice warning signs, or when an employee discloses a mental-health problem. Guidelines include:

  • Maintain an appropriate level of regular contact with the employee and discuss return to work as soon as possible.
  • If appropriate, appoint a co-ordinator to facilitate the employee's return to work
  • Avoid getting caught up in the issue of whether an illness is 'real' or not.
  • Don't take things personally, no matter how hard the situation gets.
  • Consider the approach to managing return to work that you would take if an employee had a physical illness; many of the principles will be the same for a mental health problem.
  • Agree with the employee about exactly who else, if anyone, might need to know about their mental health problem, and what information they need to be provided with.
  • Managing return to work after mental illness can take its toll. Make sure you are able to access support when you need it.
  • Make sure to identify perceived barriers and prioritize solutions for a safe and early return to work.
  • Take a collaborative approach and involve the employee. Use statements like, "This is what I am suggesting. Are you OK with that?" or "What's going to work best for you?"
  • Develop a clear, written return-to-work plan that incorporates reasonable adjustments and ensures the employee is actively involved in its development.

Ontario Chamber of Commerce: Working Toward Mental Health

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) seeks to illuminate the distinctive character of mental wellness in the workplace, outline the case for action and provide resources for starting the conversation on mental health in the workplace across Ontario. This resource includes a selection of valuable and relevant websites and tools to further help employers assess their business, develop appropriate solutions and discover formal support for their employees and themselves. Guidelines include:

  • Preventing discrimination based on mental illness, such as refusing to hire someone, or prohibiting someone from taking part in projects, promotions, or training opportunities because it is assumed, based on stereotypes rather than ability, that they are not right for the job.
  • Provide continuous training and information about mental health for everybody.
  • Ensuring all employees have a constructive attitude toward mental illness and can feel safe in self-identifying as a person with mental illness.
  • Providing appropriate accommodations.
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