Community Savings Credit Union is reducing stigma around mental health in the workplace and the community through increased wellness support and advocacy work.

The British Columbia-based credit union recently increased coverage for mental-health counselling to $2,000 per employee per year and renamed sick days to ‘health days’ to help employees feel more supported.

“We wanted to change the name to give a broader definition to why people might need a day off,” says Kirsten I’Anson, vice-president of people and culture at Community Savings. “This way, they don’t have to explain themselves or give a specific reason. If you’re experiencing any type of distress, it stops you from being able to perform your job well and it would be wrong to ask someone to work in that state.”

Read: 71% of Canadian employees say mental health impacted their ability to work in the past year: survey

Community Savings has also introduced various other initiatives such as wellness packs, where employees are provided with educational materials and resources on mental health, along with resilience training regarding healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress.

“It’s important to reduce the stigma around mental health everywhere, but within the workplace we’ve got this platform to reach more people. When organizations focus on putting their employees’ health first as well as advocacy work, it can have a big impact. We make sure to examine whether our initiatives are working and ask ourselves whether we’re helping to reduce stigma with our campaigns.”

In 2022, Community Savings conducted a research study in conjunction with the University of British Columbia on men’s mental health in the workplace, where nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents scored above the threshold for probable major depression. The results indicate stigma around mental health in the workplace is still very high, noted l’Anson.

Read: Stigma preventing employees from seeking mental-health help: report

In addition to improving employee mental health, the credit union has been advocating for change in workers’ policies in B.C. by participating in rallies and speaking to government officials.

One possible action cited in its 2022 report was mental-health training for managers, so that’s likely another area where Community Savings will be pushing for legislative change, says I’Anson. “There’s been so much done over the years to support the physical safety of workers, but there’s a major void in having legislation around what employers should be doing to [support employees’] mental health.”