“You Look Marvelous”. Contrary to that iconic line from the classic sketch by comic Billy Crystal, it is not all about appearance. How you feel is in fact of paramount importance. Silently, many Canadians suffer through real hardship as a result of how they “feel”. They suffer from mental illness.
- 1 out of every 5 Canadians will experience a mental health issue – a 20 Billion dollar issue to workplaces in Canada! (MHCC)
- More than 500,000 Canadians will not go to work because of mental illness1
- 30% of disability claims and 70% of disability costs are attributed to mental illness2
- $51 billion each year is lost to the Canadian economy because of mental illness3
Mental illness and mental health certainly encompasses a vast and varied number of conditions. For this article I would like to focus on an area which many workplaces do have the capacity to influence – STRESS.
“Stress is the most common cause of ill health in our society, probably underlying as many as 70% of all visits to family doctors” (www.mentalhealth.com). For close to 30 years, psychotherapist and anxiety specialist Maryanne Nicholls has been helping people work through stress and anxiety. She has seen just how much of an impact stress has on the ability of individuals to function normally. According to Maryanne, “The tragedy is that people can find their way out of this, but often don’t.”
When people don’t know where to turn they will often conceal their illness or mask it as a different condition. In some cases, they may lean on their manager or co-worker for support. In other cases, the relationships at work may be the primary cause of the stress and anxiety an employee is facing. Unfortunately this puts both parties in a position for which they are neither equipped nor suited. In recognition of this many employers are finding ways to be a part of the solution while maintaining a healthy distance from the treatment itself. Some of the more popular ideas are:
Employee Assistance Program (EAP): More and more employers are including EAPs in their standard employee benefits program as a means to ensure that employees have support from private, professional counselling services while removing that burden from management and other staff that lack the tools to do so.
Workshops: Having an outside expert hold a workshop to discuss some of the hot button stress issues is a great way to engage employees to understand and manage the stress in their lives. Improved understanding among the entire workplace removes the stigma of mental illness, stress, and anxiety making it easier for a suffering employee to take the first step towards seeking help.
Physical activity: There is plenty of evidence to support the fact that physical activity is a fantastic stress manager. Our brains thrive on the stimulation that exercise provides. Being active has many, many benefits beyond stress management so we strongly encourage employers to find a way to implement any number of initiatives aimed at promoting physical activity whether it be lunch time walking clubs, charity runs and training groups, or simply taking the stairs whenever possible.
Implementing these 3 concepts is an exceptional way to improve awareness and acceptance, provide tools for managing and treating stress, as well as creating a culture that promotes a more stress free environment. If you can achieve that, your workplace would most certainly be considered a Healthy Workplace Month success story and a great place to work.
With special thanks to contributor Maryanne Nicholls.
Maryanne Nicholls is a Gestalt Psychotherapist, graduating from the Gestalt Institute of Toronto. She offers individual and group therapy, and has led workshops and given presentations on self-development. Currently, her focus is on helping people who suffer from anxiety. Please visit her website – www.thejoyofliving.co
1 – MHCC . http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/node/5346#issue
2 – MHCC . http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/node/5346#issue
3 – MHCC . http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/node/5346#issue