Demystifying Mental Health

Understanding Mental
Illness in the Workplace
Presented by: Judith Plotkin, BSW, MSW
Date: October 16th, 2013
• Understand the prevalence and impact of
mental illness
• Become familiar with stigma associated with
mental illness
• Learn the facts about mental illness
• Identify symptoms of common mental
• Learn strategies to help self and others
• Be more confident in approaching an
employee at work for whom you have mental
health concerns
• What can you do at your workplace!
1. Statistics on prevalence and
information on stigma
2. Information on common mental
illnesses and treatments
3. Strategies for being a supportive
4. Application of mental health strategies
to your workplace
The cost of mental illness
• Mental illnesses are costing Canada about
$20.7 billion in 2012
• 28% of workers would be comfortable
having a conversation about that worker’s
mental health
• Stigmas associated with mental health
issues, misinformation, fear and prejudice
remain prevalent in workplaces
Top 10 Medical Conditions
(Cost/1000 FTEs)
Source: Loeppke, R., et al., . JOEM. 2009;51(4):411-528
Mental illness in the workplace
– 51% of employees kept quiet about their mental
- 43% of Canadians know a colleague with a
mental illness
- 66% of employees say they do not have the
tools at work to help with mental illness
-from the 2007 CMHA and Desjardins Financial Security
National Mental Health Week Survey
- 44% of Canadians have coped with
a mental health problem such as
extreme stress, depression,
substance abuse or schizophrenia
-from the Conference Board of Canada study, 2012
Mental Illness 101
Everyone at some point in their life experiences feelings of
isolation, loneliness, emotional distress or disconnection…
…these are
normal, shortterm reactions to
difficult situations.
In some cases however the duration and intensity may
interfere seriously with everyday life.
When these conditions persist past a 2 week period,
this is when it can turn into a mental illness.
The Stigma of Mental Illness
• What is Stigma?
– a major barrier preventing people from seeking help
– negative and unfavorable attitudes
– negative behaviours that result from those attitudes
• People living with a mental illness often
experience stigma through:
– Inequality in employment, housing, educational and other
opportunities which the rest of us take for granted
– Loss of friends and family members (the social and support
– Self-stigma created when someone with a mental illness believes
the negative messages
• From the MHCC website, 2012
Signs and symptoms
• Understanding the signs and symptoms of
mental illness increases awareness
• Video clip:
Stress and mental/physical health
Optimal zone
Employee’s Experience
Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings” Health Affairs (2010) Vol. 29:2
and : Drs. Linda Duxbury & Chris Higgins
• Why are some people more
vulnerable to mental health
– Consider: brain function, grief,
family issues, work stress, financial
problems, substance abuse and
addiction, support from social
network, etc.
Identifying common mental illnesses
• General information about symptoms of the four
most common mental illnesses in Canada.
• Please refer to the resources listed at the end of
this presentation for more in-depth information.
Symptoms of Depression
• Feeling sad, down, hopeless, or worthless
• Lack of interest
• Fatigue or restlessness
• Trouble concentrating & poor memory
• Sleep disturbance
• Unexplained physical problems
• Weight gain or loss
• Isolating from others
• Anger & irritability
• Thoughts of suicide
Approximately 9%
of adult Canadians
will experience a
disorder in their
Mood disorder: Bipolar
• Alternating high (mania) & low moods (depression)
• Poor judgment & risky behavior
• Increased physical activity
• Inflated self-esteem
• Hopelessness & sadness
• Loss of energy
• Guilt
• Suicidal thoughts
1% prevalence
rate in Canada
Signs of substance abuse
• Repeated failure to meet social, occupational or
family duties (late or absent, poor performance,
neglect of children)
• Uncharacteristic mood or personality swings
• Spending too much, borrowing or stealing money
• Physical signs (agitated or drowsy, blood shot or
pinned eyes)
• Odor on clothing
• Drug paraphernalia
Addiction abuse
results in one
Canadian dying
every 32 minutes
Anxiety symptoms
• Restlessness
• Easily distracted
• Worry
• Feeling on edge
• Difficulty concentrating
• Poor memory
• Irritable or impatient
• Sleep disturbance
• Unexplained physical problems
rate in Canada
Suicide and Risk
If you suspect someone may be suicidal:
• Be direct and ask
• Be open – it does not increase the risk
• Be non-judgmental
• Take all threats seriously
• Look into community resources
• Tell someone who can help
• Take action if you perceive immediate risk (police, emergency
services, hospital)
Professional Consultation
- If you see signs and symptoms of mental illness,
approach the employee and have a discussion.
Mention EFAP as a resource to them.
- Consider professional consultation if you notice:
Changes in mood and/or behaviour that are
troubling and persist beyond two weeks
What to look out for:
- Normally vivacious person is withdrawn
- Dramatic changes in appearance
- Expressed thoughts of helplessness
and worthlessness
- Crying without apparent reason
- Loss of sleep and/or appetite
Supporting someone in need
Listen without rescuing, no “quick fixes”
Offer to find the person support
Don’t judge or blame
Help them remain hopeful
Celebrate success
Share and self disclose
Encourage resilience & self care
Strategies for looking after employees
• Do…
– Familiarize yourself with symptoms of common
mental illnesses
– Initiate communication with your employee about your
– Rehearse beforehand what you are going to say
when you approach your employee
– Be prepared to face defensiveness, anger,
embarrassment by your employee
– Inform HR and Management and enlist their support
when appropriate (ie, whenever there is a risk
involved or when job safety becomes an issue)
– Suggest your employee uses the EFAP service
– Always put job safety first
– LOOK AFTER YOURSELF – be aware of your rights
as well as your responsibilities
Strategies for looking after coworkers
• Do not…
– Attempt to make your own diagnoses
– Take on the counsellor role
– Assume someone else will approach this
– Take negative responses personally – often
these are symptomatic of the illness itself
– Engage in office gossip
– Allow your fear of ‘rocking the boat’ to impact
on job safety
Suggested guideline for approaching a employee
you suspect has mental health concerns
• Step 1: Choose your time well (i.e., away from others, not
late on a Friday afternoon)
• Step 2: Begin with open-ended questions
– “How are you?” or “How have things been for you
• Step 3: Phrase your concerns with behavior
observation language
– “I have observed you recently (describe behavior, e.g.,
forgetting meetings)…”
– “On (this occasion) I noticed you (describe behavior,
e.g., got mad at Annie for getting paper stuck in the
Suggested guideline for approaching a employee
you suspect has mental health concerns, cont’d…
• Step 4: Keep language neutral and supportive
– “I enjoy working with you and want to be a supportive employee. I am
always here if you would like to talk about things. I will be a safe ear,
but your safety and job safety is important to me, so I need to let you
know that if anything you say makes me concerned for either of these,
I will need to let someone know.”
• Step 5: Follow-up with the individual.
– “Have you had a chance to think about any of those things we talked
over the other day? How are you doing today?”
• Step 6: Inform and enlist the support of your supervisor or HR if you
feel it is appropriate. Depending on your relationship with the
employee, let them know.
– “I have still noticed these changes in your behavior and I’m starting to
become concerned for your welfare and how our workplace is being
affected. I am still here to support you, but I feel in this instance the
right thing to do is to involve HR and let them know my concerns.”
10 Tips for Mental Health
1. Build Confidence
2. Eat right, Keep fit
3. Make Time for Family and Friends
4. Give and Accept Support
5. Create a Meaningful Budget
6. Volunteer
7. Manage Stress
8. Find Strength in Numbers
9. Identify and Deal with Moods
10.Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself
~from the CMHA website
Definition of resilience
• The capacity to respond and prosper from
stressful circumstances
• Ability to bounce back, buoyant
• Optimal recovery from stressful events
• Being healthy and well despite all of life’s
Tips on building resilience at work
1. Respect your mental health.
Let go of things you can’t control
Practice the attitude of gratitude
Maintain an optimistic outlook
Practice joy through laughter
Forgive yourself and others
Take breaks during the day
2. Look after your physical health.
– Eat nutritiously dense foods
– Schedule regular physical activity
– Prioritize sleep
3. Create social connections.
- Develop a strong supportive network of friends, family and cohorts
Tips on building resilience…cont’d
4. Increase your intellectual capacity.
- Build skills, knowledge or ability
5. Consider your spiritual health.
- Cultivate a positive relationship with yourself first, then cultivate
positive relationships with others
- Take the time to identify, then live your values – every day
- Recognize what you are passionate about
- Make it a priority to fit these activities into your life
- Restore an inner sense of peace or connection through practicing
stress management and relaxation techniques such as meditation,
yoga, guided imagery, deep breathing or prayer
Tips on building resilience…cont’d
6. At work:
- Make every day meaningful
- At the end of each day, review your accomplishments then set your priorities for
the following day
- Make a distinction between work and the rest of your life
- Address concerns about deadlines and deliverables early
- Minimize the number of times you respond to emails during the day
- Take your allotted vacation time
- Minimize your connection to work during your vacation time.
- Take the time to celebrate successes
- Acknowledge your efforts, results and positive impact of these
- Be proactive
- Don’t ignore issues, recognize it can take time to recover and know that
your situation can improve if you actively put energy and attention into it
Three Pronged Approach
MHCC Road to Psychological Safely
Law and science agree that risks to mental health are more likely to
arise and contribute to a psychologically unsafe workplace when:
Job Demands and Requirements of Effort. Job demands
consistently and chronically exceed worker skill levels or exploit them
beyond what would be considered reasonable for a particular type of
undertaking, or where work is distributed inequitably.
MHCC Road to Psychological Safely
• Job control or influence. Discretion over the means, manner and
methods of their work (including “voice” or the perceived freedom to
express views or feelings appropriate to the situation or context) is
withheld from workers by choice rather than because of the intrinsic
nation of the work.
Factors that lead to Healthier Workplaces
Transformational Leadership
Work Load and Pace
Work Schedule
Role Clarity
Job Future
Workplace Justice
Reduced Status Distinctions
Social Environment
Call To Action
Change the Culture=Change the Outcome
You can start the conversation at work
Build peer programs
Create executive buy in
Talk about mental health and wellness
– Wear mental health “lenses”
– What is your action plan?
In Summary…
• Understand: the facts about mental illness
• Recognize: the signs and symptoms of mental
• Act: employ strategies to help yourself and coworkers
• Prevention: cost effective and beneficial for
employees – how can you be proactive?
• Call to Action
Please be back in 15 minutes
Defining addiction
• Introduction
Dr. HR Vedelago, MSc., MD, FCFP, ABAM
Chief of Addiction Medicine
McMaster University Faculty of Family Medicine
Director, Addiction Division, Homewood Health Centre,
Guelph, ON
Dr. Vedelago is a frequent presenter and author of articles
and peer-reviewed discussion papers on various aspects of
addiction medicine
• Addiction
– Myths
– Misconceptions
Resources and information
• Mental Health Commission of Canada:
• Public Health Agency of Canada:
• Alzheimer Society of Canada:
• Check-Up From The Neck Up:
• Mental Health Website:
• Canadian Association of Social Workers:
• Canadian Institute for Health Information:
• Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Institute of Neurosciences,
• Centre for Addictions and Mental Health:
• Canadian Medical Association:
• Canadian Mental Health Association:
Resources and information, cont’d
Schizophrenia Society of Canada: www.schizophrenia
Canadian Psychiatric Association:
Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation:
Canadian Psychological Association:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:
The College of Family Physicians of Canada:
Health Canada, Mental Health:
The Mood Disorders Society of Canada:
The National Eating Disorder Information Centre:
National Network for Mental Health: