Niagara Casinos earns mental-health award for prevention, awareness strategy

Niagara Casinos took home the mental-health award at Benefits Canada‘s 2019 Workplace Benefits Awards in Toronto on Oct. 17 for its thorough and comprehensive approach to supporting its employees’ mental health.

Its strategy, which is focused on awareness and prevention, aims to create and support a mentally healthy workplace, remove the stigma and provide resources for employees struggling with a mental-health issue or an employee’s family member who needs support or assistance.

“We started our wellness program about 10 years ago,” says Lindsay Daw, disability services manager at Niagara Casinos. “And when we first started out, it was really focused around physical health and nutrition, that type of thing. So we’ve really expanded through the years and really incorporated mental health and financial health because they all go together.”

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An imbalance in one of these areas really impacts the others, she adds. “Somebody who’s financially unhealthy is likely to have mental-health issues as well.”

This is one of the reasons Niagara Casinos hosted its ncCafe this year. The initiative is a pop-up coffee stand that hands out coffee and cookies to employees, along with a demonstration on how savings can accrue from small cutbacks, such as not buying coffee every day. The goal was to show how small savings can have a big impact.

“So we did an initiative where we were showing our employees just what a small difference can make, like buying a cup of coffee every day, and the impact it can have on their savings over time,” says Daw. “Really showing them that even $2 a day saved over 15 years and what that can equate to in their savings and their financial well-being.”

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Niagara Casinos also highlights mental-health awareness month in May, hosting sessions for employees that cover topics like anxiety, depression, stress and substance dependency. At the same time, it introduced a wellness initiative aimed at stress relief to its women’s employee resource group, where 25 employees participated in baby goat yoga.

Every January, it promotes Bell Let’s Talk Day. “We have supported this day as part of our ‘great people of Niagara Casinos’ campaign, by featuring spotlights of our employees sharing stories about how mental-health related issues have affected their lives and strategies they use to maintain good mental health,” noted the award entry.

These stories were then featured in the organization’s back-of-house hallways, employee dining room, wellness centre and human resources office, as well as the intranet and social media platforms.

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In addition to these and other initiatives, Niagara Casinos ties its diversity and inclusion strategy into improving employees’ mental health. This includes the women’s group, which provides resiliency training, mental-health sessions and networking opportunities; various LGBTQ+ training and awareness campaigns; and the support of multicultural events through internal communications, community sponsorships and international days of remembrance.

And finally, to assist employees with mental-health coverage and access, the company has also been enhancing its benefits plan. In 2015, it added social workers to its list of service providers and doubled the annual limit from $600 to $1,200. In 2017, it added psychologist and social worker coverage to its part-time benefits plan and removed the per-visit maximum. And in 2018, it increased psychologist and social worker coverage from $1,200 to $1,500 for all members.