The Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan’s extensive mental-health strategy led to a win in the Mental health program category for an employer with fewer than 1,000 employees at Benefits Canada‘s 2022 Workplace Benefits Awards on Oct. 18.

In 2021, the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan launched a campaign called It Takes a Village, which emphasizes the importance of community and social connection in mental-health support for employees.

The campaign was based on feedback from the organization’s employer groups, says Nikki Booth, communications manager at the ASEBP. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many employees were struggling while trying to educate students, she adds. “It takes a village for good mental health and to provide a holistic, overarching information source through the website that not only our [employees] could use, but the community as well.”

Read: Who are the winners of the 2022 Workplace Benefits Awards?

The ASEBP also launched a mental-health resources page on its intranet and an online forum where employees can discuss mental-health topics. Throughout the year, it included self-care tips on its digital calendars and shared several wellness articles and benefits reminders, such as the availability of its employee assistance program.

“We looked at how staff could get the information, but also how to get them to start a conversation,” says Booth. “That’s been a big part for us: creating safe spaces where they could say, ‘I know you’ve been struggling’ and have a chat to support each other.”

In May 2021, the ASEBP marked Mental Health Week by providing access to a series of videos on mental-health topics. To incentivize employees to watch the videos, the organization offered prize draws for wellness account credits. During the week, its mental-health resources page received more than 265 visits compared to just 16 in the previous week.

Read: Mental-health supports, training on the rise as a fifth of benefits plan members report poor mental health: survey

In June, the organization held four Wellness Wednesdays to share mental-health tips and resources with employees and encourage workers to review this content in support of their personal well-being.

Anna MacDonald, director of human resources services at the ASEBP, says leadership support was also an important aspect of the organization’s mental-health strategy. “We realized we needed to bring [leaders] together more often. We started doing leadership lunch and learns and it was a great way to bring them together to discuss leadership issues. If they’re connected, they’ll keep everyone else connected.”

Employee feedback on the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive, says Booth, noting an updated version is scheduled to launch in January. “You see comments like, ‘This is why I’m with ASEBP.’ Employees are sharing those resources with their family and friends and it’s made a difference for many. We’ve had some wonderful conversations where employees are sharing about their own mental health or reaching out to someone who may be struggling. We’ve always said we’re a family, but this has really bolstered that.”

Read: Expert panel: The future of work is flexible, prioritizes employee mental health