Workplaces key sites for mental-health promotion, finds UBC study

A growing body of international evidence indicates education, prevention efforts and early intervention are critical to people’s mental health, according to a new study at the University of British Columbia.

Mental-health efforts are taking place “across social systems and within organizational structures, including public health, educational institutions and workplaces,” noted the study, authored by Miranda Massie, a health promotion specialist at the university.

The project was initiated because UBC felt there was a lack of “the evidence and support as to the benefits of these [mental-health] programs,” she says.

Read: Workplace mental-health training on the rise: Sanofi survey

In 2010, the university began offering mental-health first aid training and, in 2018, it introduced the Working Mind, an education-based program designed to address and promote mental health and reduce the stigma of mental illness in a workplace setting.

“It came from a place where we knew these trainings were important and we knew they were making a difference,” says Massie. “It was important [for us] in making the case and trying to get other managers, other participants, the rest of the university interested and involved.”

One of the findings from the study was the important role that workplaces place in health promotion, she says. However, in delving into the literature, Massie also found employees are looking not only for professional growth from their careers and from their employers, but also for personal fulfillment. “And they’re looking for ways their workplace can enhance their life, and not just the professional part of their lives,” she adds.

Read: Specific solutions required to move dial on mental-health treatment, costs

In the last 15 to 20 years, there’s been a “little bit of a shift towards employees pushing organizations and institutions in terms of what they were offering, whether it was benefits, whether it was professional development opportunities, sort of that full suite of services for your employees,” says Massie.

The study also found workplaces were specifically identified as contributing factors to both health engagement and life satisfaction.

“When I was looking through the literature, particularly around mental-health education in the workplace, and if there was information on mental-health literacy in the workplace, they saw an increase in the well-being of participants simply participating in these training programs,” says Massie.

Read: Majority of Canadians suffering from a mental-health issue, sleeping disorder: survey