Section 1 – Health and Wellness in the Workplace

What is Mental Health?

Mental health is a term that describes how we feel, perceive, think, communicate and understand within the context of our community. Mental health refers to either a level of cognitive or emotional well-being or an absence of a mental disorder. Mental Health also means the ability to enjoy life’s activities while maintaining a level of balance in the face of life’s ups and downs.

It was previously stated that there was no one “official” definition of mental health. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how “mental health” is defined. However, the World Health Organization has now defined mental health as “a feeling of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Mental health is an expression of our emotions and signifies a successful adaptation to a variety of situational demands allowing us to maintain our full potential and participate successfully in everyday life.

Mental health (or well-being) is an ideal we all strive for. It is a balance of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Caring relationships, a place to call home, a supportive community, and work and leisure all contribute to mental health.

However, no one’s life is perfect, so mental health is also about learning the coping skills to deal with life’s ups and downs the best we can.

What is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is a serious disturbance in thoughts, feelings and perceptions that is severe enough to affect day-to-day functioning. Some names for mental illness include:

Schizophrenia:  Seeing, smelling or hearing things that aren’t there – or holding firm beliefs that makes no sense to anyone else but you.

Depression:  Intense feelings of sadness and worthlessness – so bad that you have lost interest in life.

Bi-polar Disorder:  Cycles of feeling intensely happy and invincible followed by depression.

Anxiety Disorders:  Panic attacks, phobias, obsessions or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Eating Disorders:  Anorexia (not eating), or bulimia (eating too much and then vomiting).

Borderline Personality Disorder:  Severe difficulty with relationships, placing yourself in danger, makes decisions that turn out to be very bad for you.

Problem Gambling:  Is an urge to gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling often is defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler’s behaviour.

Addiction:  When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite severe life problems related to continued use. Some substances create a physical craving. Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. This, along with substance abuse are considered substance use disorders.

Living with a mental illness means not only making efforts to manage it, but coping with the ways in which it can affect your life and those in it. If you’re faced with a mental health concern, or if you are the loved one of someone who is, there are things you can do to help make way for a better life.

Facts about Mental Illness in the Workplace

(Adopted from Quick Facts: Mental Illness and Addiction in Canada PDF)

  • Percentage of Canadian employers who consider the continuous rise in employees’ mental health claims to be a top concern: 56%.
  • Percentage of short term disability claims related to mental illness in Canada: 75%. 2007 figures report 72%.
  • Percentage of long term disability claims related to mental illness in Canada: 79%. 2007 figures report 82%.
  • Percentage increase in long term disability costs: 27%.
  • Percentage of employers who track disability claims costs as a percentage of payroll: 28%.
  • Percentage of employers who have plans to address mental health and mental illness in the workplace: 31%.
  • Fastest growing category of disability costs to Canadian employers: Depression.
  • Annual losses to the Canadian economy due to mental illness in the workplace: $33 billion.
  • Amount employer will save, per employee per year, for those who get treatment: From $5000 – $10,000 in average wage replacement, sick leave and prescription drug costs.
  • Percentage of people with serious mental illness who are unemployed: 70 – 90%.
  • Percentage of people with serious mental illness who want to work: 80%.
  • Percentage of Canadian organizations that have no structured process for supervisors to support employees’ return to work after any illness or disability: 64%.
  • Percentage of organizations that have no process to address significant changes in employee productivity or behaviour: 84%.
  • Percentage of organizations that identify addressing the stigma associated with mental illness as a priority: 20%.
  • Level at which Canadians with depression report that they function at work: 62% of capacity.
  • Percentage of Canadians with depression who have had to leave their work for short-term, long-term disability or permanently: 70%.
  • Percentage of Canadians who have quit a job because of depression: 35% with 25% reporting they lost a job because of depression.
  • Percentage of Canadians who are concerned that they will lose their job because of their depression: 78%.
  • Proportion of Canadian employees who report they work in environments that are not psychologically safe or healthy: 3 in 10.
  • Percentage increase in court awarded settlements due to mental injury in Canadian workplaces over the last 5 years: 700%.

For further information on mental health in the workplace, please visit our Workplace page, or to inquire about getting skilled help to assist in your workplace needs contact us.