CAMH creates handbook for employers to better handle mental health

Jan 23 2020, 5:05 pm

The Centre for Addiction in Mental Health has released a handbook giving business leaders advice on how to improve the way they handle mental health in the workplace.

The 28-page PDF document released Thursday illustrates the burden mental illness places on the economy, and gives employers tips on how to help their staff deal with mental illness and create a more productive and supportive workplace.

“After decades of working with organizations around the world to advance diversity and inclusion, I firmly believe that employee mental health is the most important issue facing workplaces today,” said Deborah Gillis, president and CEO of CAMH Foundation.

Half a million Canadians miss work every week because of mental illness, according to CAMH. It estimates the economic burden of mental illness in Canada is $51 billion each year.

Across Canada, a little less than a third of disability claims are due to mental illness. However, mental illnesses account for 70% of disability costs, the handbook says.

CAMH recommends companies set the tone on mental illness “from the top,” by having the CEO or team leaders champion mental health initiatives and sharing their personal journeys with mental health.

Reducing friction between work and life by offering flexible hours, managing job stress, and dealing with discrimination and harassment effectively so employees don’t feel victimized are other tips.

According to CAMH, only a third of Canadians think their workplace’s leadership is taking action to address workplace mental health.

CAMH also recommends having people in leadership roles undergo mandatory mental health training sessions.

Another important piece is giving employees resources to manage their mental illness, such as good mental health benefits coverage, an employee assistance program, and extra pay to cover last-minute child or elder care.

In the handbook, CAMH features some prominent employers who have taken some of these steps, such as Bank of Montreal separating out mental health coverage in its benefits plan to double mental health coverage maximums.

BMO also partnered with CAMH to put together the handbook.