Make Mental Illness Awareness Week a Call to Action
Oct 06, 2017
October 1-7 is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW).
Established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association (and now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health), MIAW is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says that 500,000 Canadians are unable to work because of mental health issues in any given week. Disability claims for mental illnesses accounted for about 30 percent of short and long-term claims in 2014, and they are currently the fastest-growing type of disability claim in Canada.
Manitoba’s own Public Health Officer has reported that every dollar spent on mental health and addictions services saves $7 in health care costs and $530 in lost productivity in social costs, yet it continues to be underfunded in Canada.
One way of addressing potential issues before they arise is to ensure employers continue to promote mental health in workplaces across the country. However, workplace discussions about mental health still trail behind the conversation in the general public, and organizations need to move quicker on understanding trends, financial costs, managing stigma, and setting up resources to support workplace mental health.
A Benefits Canada survey in 2016 found that two-thirds of employees who took time off work for a mental health issue did not report it as such. Less than one-third of employers surveyed said that support for mental wellness in their organization had improved over the last few years, and 62 percent said it had stayed the same. That means many organizations have not yet developed a comprehensive and consistent culture of acceptance around workplace mental health. That is unfortunate, because there is considerable need to do so.
Every organization’s culture and structure is unique, but all can benefit from some basic steps toward introducing a general framework that enables change. This would include things like identifying an executive champion; building a team or using a workplace safety and health team to develop a mental health wellness plan; creating a
communications strategy to raise awareness of resources and supports for employees, etc. There are many resources out there to help organizations through this process.
What’s most important is to start the process. Every workplace will be a better one for both employees and the employer if mental health wellness programs are created and promoted. So, if you don’t already have this kind of program in your workplace, make it your goal to help build one. And if you want to recognize Mental Illness Awareness Week, take the first important step by talking about mental health in your workplace.