The City of Ottawa is rolling out a communications plan to promote Mental Health Week across its workforce this week, including articles highlighting the mental-health resources available to all employees.

The communications to employees began with an email from Marianne Phillips, acting director of human resources, providing an overview of the City’s commitment to mental and organizational health. It will also send out articles promoting its diversity and inclusion and employee assistance program workshops (which it calls cafés) on mental health, family and the workplace, which will take place on May 11 and 12.

Additionally, there will be a separate communication sent to all managers with links to resources so they can help employees with signs of mental-health issues.

Read: How to engage employees in Mental Health Week

The City of Ottawa launched its Workplace Wellness and Productivity Network in October 2013, with the goal to create a single source for employees and managers to access information, resources and tools to assist them to manage their health and well-being both at work and at home.

Located on the City’s intranet site, Ozone, the information is split into six categories: Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, Healthy Workplace, Healthy Families and Relationships, Substance Misuse and Managing Stress.

“The network features an entire database of fact sheets and articles related to health and well-being,” says Phillips. “Employees can discover tips on how to communicate with their manager, how to manage their finances, plan for retirement, learn more about our sick-leave policies and return -to-work practices, how to reduce workplace sitting time, healthy eating on a budget, and much more.”

Read: Half of Toronto-area workers have faced mental-health issues: survey

The City of Ottawa also has a strategy called the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Roadmap, which builds on existing policies, procedures, training, resources and supports. It was developed to respond to a 2014 council motion to create a mentally health workplace for employees.

Mental-health education is the 2016 focus for its multi-year implementation plan. “It encompasses a variety of City programs that are designed to prevent mental-health hazards through awareness and education programs, and/or to intervene early when a mental-health issue arises by providing access to support and resources,” say Phillips.

“The purpose of mental-health awareness in the workplace is to increase understanding of mental-health issues, learn how to identify early warning signs, understand the importance of getting help, and develop skills and resources that support mental-health issues.”

The Workplace Wellness and Productivity Network also offers a variety of workshops and training opportunities to guide managers in bringing wellness into the workplace. While the training is designed to increase supervisor/manager ability to recognize and respond to employee mental health needs, Phillips notes that even comprehensive training can’t eliminate the need for further consultation.

Read: Bell Canada launches new mental-health support programs

Read: GE Canada enters third stage of mental health strategy

“Each case involving mental health in the workplace is unique, and management consultation on mental-health concerns will continue to be available to management, union and other stakeholders,” she adds.

The City of Ottawa also offers two formal peer support groups – for its transit system, OC Transpo, and the Ottawa Paramedic Service – and another one in development, with the Ottawa Fire Service.

“Peer Support is established because of the well-documented belief that employees seek help and support from their co-workers,” explains Phillips. “One peer experiencing personal problems will more than likely seek help from another peer who is known to have special qualities, training or background.”

Read: Ontario passes legislation to support first responders with PTSD

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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