It’s no surprise to employers that mental health is a considerable issue in the workplace. It is a major disability and one that is often difficult to identify and care for. According to Health Canada, “About 11% of men and 16% of women in Canada will experience major depression in the course of their lives.” And that doesn’t account for the many other psychological illnesses employees may face.

Over the years, we have often written about mental health in Benefits Canada and in our sister publications, Working Well and Benefits Canada Across Borders. Most recently, in the July/August 2010 issue of Benefits Canada, associate editor April Scott-Clarke wrote about Bill 168, which speaks to the new requirements surrounding workplace violence and harassment that came into force for Ontario employers on June 15, 2010.

Clearly, experts agree that early diagnosis and treatment is essential to getting people back on the road to wellness, and this has been readily documented. It is good for employees and good for the workplace, which undeniably also suffers in lost productivity and higher economic costs. How we do this is the differentiating factor. What works for one plan sponsor may not work for another; company culture and workplace dynamics play such important roles.

In a recent advisory board meeting, Sarah Beech, managing director, Canada, for Hewitt Associates and Marilee Mark, vice-president, marketing, group benefits, for Manulife Financial both spoke of return-to-work programs as the key learning curve for employers. I agree, which is why future mental health stories will include more case studies of what is working for plan sponsors in this area, alongside newsworthy initiatives in psychological awareness and health. In fact, we aim to bring you more employer perspective in the magazines overall. We all learn by example, even if it isn’t a perfect fit for our lives or organizations.

In addition to mental health being a critical subject area, I am noting it here because October 3–9 is Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada. The campaign, which is co-ordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, hopes “to bring an end to the stigma associated with mental illness and ensure better understanding and access to diagnosis and treatment”—an important goal that would benefit us all. BC

Alison Wood is Editor of Benefits Canada.

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