Hundreds of business leaders met in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on Wednesday to discuss the issue of mental health in the workplace. The event, Employers Connect, was hosted by Morneau Shepell and Bell Canada as part of its “Let’s Talk” campaign.

“This is an opportunity for us as workplace representatives and employers to speak with each other, share best practices and experiences, start a dialogue, and most importantly, promote action in workplace mental health,” said Paula Allen, vice-president, health solutions and practice leader, consulting, Morneau Shepell.

The Toronto event featured keynote speaker Ron Ellis, former member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who spoke about his battles with depression, and subsequent hospitalizations, after retiring from hockey. In comparing how physical illness and mental illness are treated, he told about the time former Leafs captain Mats Sundin sustained an eye injury, and the team flew him by Lear jet to see the best eye specialist they could find. But it was different when Ellis abruptly retired in 1975 because of depression.

“The Leafs didn’t even suggest I talk to the team doctor,” Ellis said. “That’s not a judgement at all. They let one of their top producers go. It was because of a lack of knowledge about an invisible injury. Today NHL teams have mental health specialists on staff. We’ve come a long way. At that time I didn’t realize that depression was hunting me down.”

Highlights from the Toronto presentation can be seen at

In Vancouver, the guest speaker was Alex Mitchell, director of community partnerships, Canucks Sports & Entertainment, who discussed the organization’s work with raising awareness of mental health in the workplace, and also about former Canucks player Rick Rypien, who suffered from depression and committed suicide last summer.

The Montreal meeting featured keynote speaker Georges Sabongui, a former military psychologist who has done stress-related research with Canada’s Armed Forces.

At all three locations, industry experts explained what employers can do to combat mental health in the workplace. Jean-Marc Mackenzie, senior vice-president, health management, Morneau Shepell, outlined some steps employers can take:

  • support a practical understanding of mental health in the workplace;
  • train managers in how to deal with it, including confronting the stigma associated with workplace mental health;
  • identify at-risk employees and follow up with a needs assessment; and
  • provide support at work during recovery.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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