American Express Canada is supporting employee well-being with onsite counselling and enhanced mental-health resources.

Employees can register for free in-office counselling sessions with a registered psychotherapist or virtual sessions with licensed counsellors. The company also upgraded its digital mental-health resources, including access to meditation and breathing exercises via a wellness app.

Annette Kingsley, Amex Canada’s vice-president of colleague experience, says the new offerings were shaped by the coronavirus pandemic’s lingering impact on mental health. “The world has changed [and] the pandemic has really presented us with an extraordinary set of circumstances [that] have really impacted our colleagues’ mental health.

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“It really has forced a lot of us to take a look at our own mental health, so as an organization, we looked at this and said, ‘How can we make it easier for our colleagues to get the support that they need?’”

The free counselling sessions are helping employees overcome cost barriers to mental-health support, she adds. Indeed, a recent survey by Amex Canada found more than half (51 per cent) of Canadians said employers should offer free access to mental-health resources. It also found 46 per cent of respondents said employers should reimburse workers for mental-health counselling and more than a quarter (29 per cent) said employers should provide free onsite counselling.

The availability of onsite counselling and managers’ willingness to share their personal experiences are also helping reduce stigma around seeking mental-health support in the workplace, says Kingsley. “If a leader talks about [mental health], it keeps the conversation going on a regular basis and brings some familiarity [to employees]. We are all affected by mental-health issues and the more we share, the more it becomes an everyday discussion and not a stigma.”

Employee response to the counselling service has been overwhelmingly positive, she notes, adding it’s important for employers to recognize that employees’ personal lives impact the workplace and productivity. “It really gives another avenue for colleagues . . . to keep the [mental-health] conversation going and to say counselling is a good thing. It’s not something we should be worried to talk about and it’s OK to say, ‘I’m not OK.’”

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