Post written by Abhishek Sarathy.
Abhishek is a current ELN Executive Committee Member and Senior Manager of Creative Services at Sun Life Financial Canada. He is also a member of United Way Toronto & York Region’s GenNext Cabinet and a CultureLink mentor for newcomer volunteers at Luminato Festival. He often reflects on his Indian heritage and time spent living in the Middle East and Europe, in his role on the ELN Executive team. With a passionate (Scorpio) personality and hint of (healthy) sarcasm, Abhishek is a self-proclaimed news junkie, tennis enthusiast, French fry aficionado, coffee snob, binge watcher, and urbanist. Plus, he’s never not thinking about travel. Say hi on Twitter at @avsarathy.
One day, it’ll be ok to unapologetically exclaim, “I had depression, and I fought it. Look at me now,” One day, not talking about your mental health with colleagues will be as taboo as drinking and driving. What a day that’ll be.
And, we’ll get there. But first, we must tackle and reverse three layers of stigma:
- being able to openly discuss our mental health;
- being comfortable sharing mental health experiences at work;
- understanding how to navigate the nuances around mental health with people from diverse backgrounds, each with varying degrees of acceptance.
It’s estimated over 1.5 million people in the GTHA’s labour force have experienced a mental health issue – that’s one in two people. Given that the Mental Health Commission of Canada recently reported that two-thirds of Canadian adults are at work 60% of their waking hours, it’s clear that mental health in the workplace is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
On March 20, 2017, as a follow-up to the launch of the MindsMatter program in December 2016, leaders from multiple sectors gathered at IBM Canada’s head office in Markham, Ontario, to address inclusion and mental health in the workplace..
The event, which was hosted by CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN), kicked-off with a panel discussion between Paula Allen (Vice President of Research and Integrative Solutions at Morneau Shepell, and Co-Chair of CivicAction’s Mental Health in the Workplace Champions Council), Abdul Nakua (Director of Community Initiatives at the Muslim Association of Canada) and Mala Dorai (Consultant of Strategy and Operations at Deloitte Canada, and a 2017 DiverseCity Fellow). This was followed by captivating break-out conversations amongst the attendees, some of whom shared lived experiences of facing mental health challenges.
Mr. Nakua observed that, in the workplace, if you’re dealing with a mental health issue, you’re often perceived as either too dangerous to be around or too weak to deal with the pressures of work – two extreme misconceptions. Instead mental health must be re-considered as a spectrum, with different levels of support and prevention.
So, here are some tangible takeaways that the group came up with, for impactful action:
- Make mental health a part of your organization’s values.
- If you have one, increase awareness around your employer assistance program.
- If you’re a people manager, make it possible for employees to speak up when they’re stressed or have too much on their plate. Then, find ways to provide them with relief.
- Use inclusive language when speaking about workplace mental health – involving employees that represent diverse groups to review communications is a good way to achieve this.
Become a mental health champion at your workplace. Continue the conversation online with #MindsMatter and stay tuned for a more detailed recap of the takeaways from this event.
That ‘One day’ can get here sooner than we think.