2020 Employers taking a closer look at mental health

Advocating for better mental health at work often starts by offering the right benefits to employees. In this post, explore some popular options.

Reasons Companies Should Promote Mental Health at Work:

One in five people in Canada experience mental health problems and this number is on the rise. Last week marked the Mental Health Week, a longstanding event spearheaded by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) to promote awareness and strategies around mental illness and addictions. It is now an ideal time for business organizations to take stock in how well they are supporting mental health initiatives in their workplace – and why they should do it better.

The Cost of Doing Nothing

The financial fallout from lost productivity relating to mental illness is costing Canadian businesses an estimated $6.6 billion annually, and mental health is the number one cause of disability claims, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Even so, according to a recent report by the CMHA, most organizations lag behind in implementing key initiatives to improve mental health in the workplace.

What a Struggling Employee Experiences

When employees begin to slide down the mental health continuum towards the unhealthy end, most do their best to hide or cover up their symptoms because of the stigma associated with mental health and, particularly, mental illness. People hold their cards close to their chest when it comes to mental health.

They often feel ashamed that they are having difficulties or feel self-conscious of what others may think. They push themselves to present as if everything is fine on the outside while they suffer in silence on the inside. It usually isn’t until employees experience more severe symptoms and are trending closer towards short-term disability that there may be signs of social isolation, increased irritability, or a decline in their personal grooming.

How can employers take action?

Organizations should look at implementing initiatives around policy creation, communication, training resources, and even treatment: This can include creating policies and mandates around mental health at a corporate level; sharing resources through internal marketing channels to promote awareness; giving management and HR the training to identify issues and handle them successfully; and, providing employees with self-help tools and programs.

Technology is now playing an important role in the treatment of mental illness, opening up ways for people to access treatment well before face-to-face talk therapy or medication may be required. Investing in mental health initiatives for leaders and employees of an organization can help in several ways.

  • Reduce stigma and create a positive workplace
  • Focus on Early Intervention/Prevention
  • Treat Issues to Reduce Impact
  • Improve Productivity and Engagement
  • Reduce Costs and Risk

Promoting mental health can also be a wise financial decision for businesses. Investing in a mentally healthy workplace can have a cost savings effect by reducing absenteeism (employees frequently absent due to illness) and presenteeism (at work, but ill and distracted), as well as disability claims and lost productivity. It also contributes to helping you meet the guidelines for workplace health and safety to reduce your legal exposure.


As a responsible employer, supporting your employees’ mental health is the right thing to do. And it’s also simply good business. There are many resources available to help with the task of getting started, contact Health Risk Services to discuss supporting your employees.

Luene La Fountaine, RHU | President/Owner
phone: 403-236-9430