On April 27, 2023, CMHA, Vancouver-Fraser partnered with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and TELUS Health | TELUS Santé to present an insightful discussion at the Leadership Through Recovery event. There were a lot of great questions from the audience we simply didn’t have enough time to respond to, so as part of Mental Health Week, we’ve asked our Community and Workplace Education team to continue the discussion online.
Mental health is something we all have and supporting mental health in the workplace is just as important as nurturing our mental health in our personal lives. As employers, we have an important role to play in building a Psychologically Healthy and Safe Workplace and supporting the wellness of our employees. CMHA, Vancouver-Fraser offers a variety of workplace educational workshops to help you
As a Leader where does someone begin, when they suspect a mental health challenge in a colleague or team member?
Education is the starting point. As laypeople we cannot diagnose; when we notice a change in a person’s behaviour we do not know if it’s due to a mental health challenge or to a situation they are experiencing that is impacting their well-being. Learning to use a trauma-informed communication model such as the CMHA, Vancouver-Fraser 4R Action Toolkit™ will ensure your conversation is safe and supportive. It is important not to delay a conversation when you are concerned about a person’s mental health. For now, tell the person you are concerned about them based on what change(s) in behaviour you notice, point out why this is not like them, and then ask an open-ended question such as, “What’s happening for you Rob?”. Your job then is to just listen without judgment. Actions might emerge and ideally from Rob.
How can we address the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace and encourage open conversations about mental health and well-being?
Organizations can erode stigma in the workplace by implementing the standard for a Psychologically Healthy and Safe Workplace (PHSW). Of the 13 Factors that define a PHSW, mental health education impacts at least five of them. Education is the force of change to eradicate stigma and normalize conversations about mental health in the workplace.
A lot of university students didn’t get the full experience due to the pandemic. What can employers do for such students entering the workforce?
It was a difficult time for these students in multiple ways. Assigning a mentor or a peer-support can prove beneficial. A less formalized approach is to maintain observation of these employees so you can spot opportunities to build their confidence or spot a change in behaviour that indicates they may be struggling.
As a manager, how do you deal with stated mental health issues by one or more of your staff members? We’re not equipped to deal with this.
When an employee chooses to disclose their mental illness, it is important to acknowledge the trust they are placing in you, and then ask how you can support them. In the workplace there is significant fear, from the CEO to the mailroom; primarily this fear lies in not knowing how to have a safe and supportive conversation with others when they disclose a mental illness to us or when a person demonstrates a change in behaviour that concerns us. Education on how to have a trauma-informed conversation will distill the fear of saying something wrong and as many people fear- making things worse. The good news about education is that we do not need to be counsellors or psychologists to develop workplace mental health skills.
As a leader how do you help an employee who appears to be struggling with a mental health issue that is affecting the workplace but does not acknowledge it? It is quite possible that the employee is not aware of the impact their behaviour has on others.
In a Psychologically Healthy and Safe Workplace managers are trained to recognize a change in behaviour and apply a trauma-informed inquiry approach. Learning and practicing a trauma-informed communication model such as the 4R Action Toolkit™ used in our Responding with Respect™ workshops, will equip leaders with the skills and confidence to check in when an employee is not themselves.
What does support look like for Mental Health First Aiders?
If you have trained employees in Mental Health First Aid, you may want to take the opportunity to determine if these individuals would be positive influencers as Mental Health Champions. Your next step is to have these individuals trained in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.
Not just mental health champions but all leaders and employees benefit from mental health education such as Responding with Respect™ which teaches the skills to use a trauma-informed communication model like the 4R Action Toolkit™. Shared literacy within an organization will help normalize conversations about mental health and eradicate stigma.