Promoting mental health at work: A prevention strategy pays off!

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Mental health is a society-wide concern felt in all of life’s sphere’s, whether at home, school or work. According to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), mental health problems affect 1 in 5 people in Quebec and Canada.

As an employer, you can make a big difference and tip the scales in favour of good mental health among your employees.

Implementing preventive strategies to promote mental health in your organization strengthens protective factors and reduces risk factors. It improves your employees' sense of safety and psychological well-being. It also helps reduce the risk of disability.

Mental health in your workplace

Work is an important part of adult life. The average person spends 40 hours per week at work for decades. If you do the math, that adds up to a lot of time.

It’s important to recognize that your employees may experience stress, anxiety and distress at work. Even if they like their jobs and find them rewarding, no one is immune to this situation.

Multiple factors can lead to work-related mental health issues:

  • workload intensity and hours
  • conflicts with a colleague
  • bullying
  • poor work-family balance
  • difficulty managing change at work
  • doubt and impostor syndrome
  • feelings of inferiority

When your employees experience stress or anxiety in their professional or personal lives, they need to be able to count on adequate support. If not, their overall well-being can quickly deteriorate.

The risks they face include:

  • burnout
  • mental health deterioration
  • anxiety disorders
  • depression
  • addictions of all kinds
  • adjustment disorders

Why focus on prevention to promote mental health?

A preventive approach to mental health is an investment in your most valuable resource: your people.

Providing a psychologically healthy work environment helps:

  • promote workplace attendance
  • facilitate employee retention and recruiting
  • improve overall team performance

Making the mental health and safety of your employees a priority is as beneficial to them as it is to your company. Today's workers are looking for a better balance between their professional and personal lives. They are drawn to workplaces that support positive mental health.

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What is a prevention strategy for mental health?

A corporate prevention strategy for mental health has two objectives: to strengthen protective factors (self-esteem, sense of belonging, job security, clarity of roles and responsibilities, etc.) and to reduce risk factors (work intensity and hours, emotional demands, lack of autonomy in the workplace, conflicting values, etc.). This can be achieved through awareness, education and support.

Promoting the importance of positive mental health contributes to fighting the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. The more openly you talk about it, the less taboo it becomes.

Education also plays a crucial role. The first step to preventing mental health conditions among your employees is to understand what you’re facing. Everybody on your team needs to understand the importance of taking care of their mental health. This includes managers, executives and leaders.

Your company also needs to offer support solutions that strengthen protective factors and reduce risk factors. You must go beyond offering a list of à la carte solutions. Your prevention strategy must be adapted to their specific reality and their needs. It must stem from a clear and tangible commitment from senior management, in line with your business strategy.

How to implement a prevention strategy using best practices:

  1. Obtain and communicate senior management's commitment to implementing workplace health and wellness practices that promote mental health.
  2. Analyze the performance of the prevention measures in your workplace. Poll employees on their satisfaction and views to get a clearer picture of the relevance of your practices.
  3. Set performance objectives and develop an action plan to achieve them.
  4. Offer support solutions to your staff. These measures must cover everything from prevention to a return to work after a prolonged absence. For instance:
    • work-life balance measures
    • employee assistance program
    • return to work plan
  5. Train managers on mental health practices.
  6. Back up your strategy with a communication plan.
  7. Track your performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of your strategy.

Does your company promote the mental well-being of your staff?

Having a prevention strategy to promote mental health is a great way to foster the overall well-being of your business. But for it to be effective, your employees must use the resources available to them. Make sure that the services available are well known and easily accessible. Explain clearly how they work and highlight the benefits. Make sure your workplaces are safe and prioritize quality of work life.

Mental health is everyone's business. The greatest gift you can give your employees is encouraging them to take care of their mental health.