One in 5 of us will struggle with a mental illness. Stereotypes and stigma are a huge part of this struggle. The attached cartoon from robot hugs © http://www.robot-hugs.com/helpful-advice/ ….says so much!
The good news is that people are talking about this more and more, thanks to great work done through an array of stakeholders not limited to Unions, Government, individuals, community agencies and even companies such as the Bell Canada whose “let’s talk” initiative and commercials have been seen by many of us. CUPE National recognizes how important this is and has recently piloted steward training on mental health in the workplace.
Mental health intersects with our workplace on many levels whether it is work -life balance, issues of accommodation, workplace psychological hazards, respectful workplace and how members feel included or excluded. We spend most of our waking time at work and so the workplace can play an important role in supporting good mental health and in ensuring against harm in the workplace.
Besides the obvious case to be made from a human perspective there are other reasons to look at what we do around mental health in our workplace:
From a legal perspective: Psychological Health in the workplace is increasingly a legal requirement. The WSH Act and Regs speak to the safety health and welfare of workers and have evolved to include psychological harassment and violence. Human Rights speaks to duty to accommodate and the protections for persons with disability. A GREAT report to google is”Tracking the Perfect Legal Storm: Converging Systems Create Mounting Pressure to Create Psychologically Safe Workplaces” by Martin Shane.
From a health and safety perspective, health and safety is not just about physical safety. The Canadian Standards Association points to best practices through the newly developed Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace standards and guidelines.
Financially: The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports about 30 per cent of short- and long-term disability claims in Canada are attributed to mental health problems and illnesses. Of the $51 billion economic cost each year attributed to mental illness in Canada, a staggering $20 billion stems from workplace losses. We know stress in the workplace in the workplace contributes to absenteeism, turn over, EAP costs, short and long term disability and to workplace accidents.
CUPE 1063 and the employer have met to begin discussions on what we can do to around mental health here in our own workplace. One initiative is for the JEDI Committee to work with CUPE 1063 and the employer to roll out our own “let’s talk” sessions and workshops. But we don’t need to wait for this to start the conversation.
Imagine if we treated physical illness the way we treat mental illness!