Canada: Mental Health Key Issue in Workplace Wellness, Study Finds

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By Jeremy Hainsworth

Nov. 18—Mental health issues and strategies to handle them are trending in human resource concerns in Canada, according to a national study from the Conference Board of Canada released at the organization's Better Workplace meeting in Vancouver Oct. 26. The study examined trends driving changes to wellness programs and the efforts by employers to integrate occupational health and safety, wellness and disability management programs into their workplaces. According to CBC director of workplace health, wellness and safety research Mary-Lou MacDonald, the study is the first of its kind in Canada, combining occupational heath and safety, absence and disability management and corporate wellness under one umbrella.

The study demonstrates, according to MacDonald, that a comprehensive organizationwide health management strategy should integrate programs to protect employee health and safety, promote wellness and effectively manage absence and disabilities.

Employee Mental Health a Priority

A key finding of the CBC study, MacDonald said, is that mental health is now a high priority for companies seeking to improve overall employee health and in turn company performance.

The study found that mental health issues, including substance abuse and fatigue management, now take priority over chemical safety, emergency preparedness, ergonomics and workplace violence.

“There are certainly high risks around not providing [mental health] programs,” MacDonald said, adding that mental health programs incorporating stress management, meditation and mindfulness are increasingly popular.

Occupational health and safety is also being incorporated more often into overall wellness plans.

“This is all about people,” MacDonald said. “The silos are starting to break down.”

‘New Challenges'

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they had an OHS strategy in place, while 79 percent said they had a staffer assigned to OHS issues.

“A little concerning,” MacDonald said, was the fact that 13 percent had no OHS strategy or anyone assigned to the area.

Some 68 percent had a disability management strategy, MacDonald said, while 59 percent said they required some form of certification for those involved in wellness work. On worker absences and handling disability issues, 62 percent said they offered stay-at-work programs to retain employees.

“We’re really starting to recognize what are the new challenges in the new workforce,” MacDonald said.

The study will be available on the CBC website in December, MacDonald said, noting that it is the CBC’s intention to revisit the study every three years and update results.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Hainsworth in Vancouver at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

More information on the Conference Board of Canada is available here.

For more information on Canadian HR law and regulation, see the Canada primer.

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