We came across an interesting article from Radio Canada International highlighting the need for mental health policies in the workplace based on research from the Conference Board of Canada. What is a mental health policy? Why are mental health policies important?
Based on our research and work with companies, we were unfortunately not surprised to hear the statistic that over half of Canadian companies do not have a mental health policy. Workplaces have developed extensive physical health and safety policies (think WHIMIS, accident protocols, physical health reimbursement policies) but these policies typically do not take the importance or potential impact of mental health.
Of course, there is a huge connection between physical and mental health, but relying on this impact, and not focusing explicitly on mental health in policy development can have a significant negative impact on a workplace.
We know that when the topics of policies come up, it isn't always the most exciting topic. We've tried to share some basic information about policies below to get you thinking about your companies policies and consider one for mental health.
Why do companies have health policies?
1. Companies with well-written and clear policies (about anything) allow employees to know their roles and responsibilities. Policies can be used during challenging, uncommon or unpleasant situations in the workplace to guide actions moving forward. They can be used to make decisions when the best solution is not immediately clear.
2. Comprehensive health and safety policies ensure that employees are safe at work, and that they will be compensated and supported if anything affecting their health and safety occurs. These policies are designed to protect employees and ensure companies are doing their due diligence if something comes up.
Why is a mental health policy important?
1. Mental health is a huge component of our overall health and wellness. Mental health challenges are common with 1/5 Canadians experiencing a mental health challenge in their life time. Mental illness is complicated, presents itself in so many different ways, and affects everyone differently. Due to the complex nature, wouldn't having a clear mental health policy benefit everyone in a company?
2. Stigma around mental health is a huge barrier to people accessing support, reaching out to colleagues or friends they think are having changes in their mental health, and in bringing it up at all! Creating a company policy that directly and explicitly addresses mental health can help reduce some of that stigma, give people a framework to use when bringing mental health up, and demonstrate to employees who are experiencing mental health challenges that the company can support you and has a plan.
3. Supporting mental health in the workplace reduces company costs related to benefits and insurance, absenteeism, presenteeism and helps improve productivity. A policy can be a great starting point in laying out your plans for supporting mental health in your workplace.
Does your company have a mental health policy? Are you working on developing one?