Queen's University

Training program to improve workplace mental health

 
2014-01-16

By Communications Staff

 Dr. Heather Stuart 

Workplace mental health received a boost today with the announcement of a progressive new training program designed to support employees. Developed by Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Morneau Shepell, Canada’s largest human resources consulting firm, the program enables learners to acquire additional skills, strategies and resources to address mental health issues in their working teams. Upon completion, program participants will receive a certificate from Queen’s. It will first be delivered to nearly 5,000 front-line managers at Bell Canada.

“Our education and research activity ultimately succeeds when it benefits Canadians beyond the walls of the academy,” says Richard Reznick, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “The new Morneau Shepell training program is a great example of this, and we are pleased to see it carry the Queen’s name. Together with the Department of Psychiatry, we have worked very hard to ensure this program meets our university’s high academic standards.”

The program, which is aligned with the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace introduced last January, was developed with input from Dr. Heather Stuart, the Bell Canada Chair in Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research. Grounded in adult learning principles, the three-phased training program takes a blended approach that consists of both in-class and online learning, as well as an assessment process that includes final examinations.

Program material will include developing empathetic coaching skills, effective management practices focused on early intervention, recovery and return to work, and identifying the leaders’ scope of influence in promoting a mentally healthy workplace. The Faculty of Health Sciences has committed to formal annual review process in order to sustain and improve the quality of the program

“We know that as many as one in five adult Canadians experience some form of mental illness, but it’s the stigma attached to it that keeps two-thirds of them from seeking help for it,” says Dr. Stuart. “It’s wonderful to see Bell bringing this issue to the forefront in their workplace. Their investment in creating awareness and building skills through comprehensive research-based training is making significant inroads in improving mental health in the workplace and removing stigma, something that those with mental illness often describe as being worse than the illness itself.”

“By adopting this training program, certified by one of Canada’s leading universities, Bell Canada has taken the next step in reinforcing its position as a clear leader in mental health in Canada,” says Alan Torrie, President and Chief Executive Officer of Morneau Shepell. “The efforts to manage mental health in the workplace have now taken a huge leap forward.”

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, mental health issues have a powerful and expanding impact in the workplace, costing the economy an estimated $50 billion annually. Mental health challenges and illnesses are the number one cause of disability in Canada, and the MHCC estimates that between 10 and 25 per cent of mental disability costs directly incurred by many employers could be avoided by implementing psychologically healthy and safe workplace strategies.

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