Employers can 'start conversation' with help of mental health toolkit

Mental health issues are becoming more and more prominent in the workplace and that's why the Chamber of Commerce in Sudbury, Ont helped create a toolkit for employers to start a conversation.

Sudbury Chamber of Commerce helps create resource to reduce time off work by employees

New toolkit for employers in Ontario provides resources to start to making workplace changes to both prevent and deal with current mental health issues. (Getty Images)

One in five Canadian workers is living with a mental health issue, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

That was one of the reasons why the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to create a new resource for employers.

The mental wellness toolkit gives employers information about mental health issues, and recommends ways to talk about the issue with workers.

"Suggesting, for example, that [the employer is] not a professional, but [that they can] also be a supportive figure and not act as a barrier to any of the issues that might be raised," says Michael MacNamara, chair for the Sudbury Chamber.

One of the first steps is to set the groundwork to create a supportive environment.

"We want to make employees feel like they can take advantage of the open door policy [employers] have for other issues," he says.

"Really come in and speak to the employers about those issues that might be causing problems for them, in a safe and supportive environment."

Workplace mental wellness ranges from low-level stress to an employee having to take time off from work.

There are many causes of work-related mental health issues says MacNamara including work overload, a lack of trust, lack of transparency or a lack of support.

"That loss of employee time is especially significant for small business owners and that's really what we're trying to avoid at all costs," says MacNamara.

"Certainly mental health issues can be treated in a variety of different ways, but what we're really trying to avoid at all cost is having an employee forced to take time off to deal with issues."

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce states that mental illnesses are costing the Canadian economy more than $50 billion annually, with $20 billion of that stemming directly from workplace losses. 

"So there really is lots of room for improvement," says MacNamara.