Are mental health champions missing from your organization?

Positioning employees to play a part in organizational mental health awareness

If you’re the type of person who notices when your co-workers or employees have become withdrawn, fatigued, anxious or just not performing at their usual best, you might be right for the role of mental health champion.

Mental health champions are people with high emotional intelligence and sensitivity towards others. They are very important when it comes to facilitating proper accommodation for your employees who could use some help getting back on their feet.

Champions aren’t expected to resolve any mental health concerns—that is the role of a mental health professional. They are simply there to recognize issues and guide those employees to the resources they need.

Essentially, they are an asset to your business.

Why should you care about mental health in the workplace?

The MHCC reports that one in five Canadians experience mental health problems or illnesses each year. This is an estimated $50 billion annually—with about 10 to 25 per cent of mental health issues having the potential to be prevented before they become more serious.

Mental health problems are the number one cause of disability in Canada. With mental health leadership, these losses to your bottom line can be prevented by providing proper accommodation to your employees when they need it, so that they can get back to feeling their best as soon as possible.

What is a workplace mental health champion?

Workplace mental health champions are volunteers who have taken on the responsibility of promoting organizational mental health and wellness. They can be at any level of an organization—not necessarily in a leadership position.

Champions have familiarized themselves with the signs of burnout, depression and anxiety. They are there to offer their support and create an organizational pathway towards facilitating accommodation for employees who may need it.

The role of a champion

The main purpose of a workplace mental health champion, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), is to recognize and understand the symptoms of mental health issues and to prevent them from becoming more serious.

One important thing to note is that workplace mental health champions are not expected to act as a psychologist. They don’t need to diagnose or resolve any issues, only to recognize signs of an employee who might not be faring well on the mental health continuum. After recognizing warning signs, champions are to lead employees to the proper resource or accommodation.

The MHCC has a standard for organizations to follow when it comes to training mental health champions. They have also outlined the role of a champion in the workplace with guidelines on ensuring mental health accommodation is communicated across every level of an organization.

Some of the guidelines include providing leadership and liaising with all stakeholders to ensure that workplace mental health awareness becomes a part of company culture. The MHCC also has guidelines for employees at every level of an organization to demonstrate how the role of a champion may change.

Resources from MHCC can be found here.

Training is critical

In addition to the training resources supplied by the MHCC, there are a number of other training programs, conferences and online resources that are devoted to training workplace mental health champions. These also include incentives for you or other employees to become a champion themselves.

One great program is Mental Health First Aid, which is held across Canada by the MHCC. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety also offers a number of online courses in mental health awareness.

It’s also important to offer encouragement to employees contributing to a mentally healthy workplace. There are a number of awards given out each year to mental health champions who have made exceptional contributions to a workplace.

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health hosts their own Champions of Mental Health Awards. Nomination Guidelines can be found here.

The Office of the Governor General of Canada also hosts a Champions of Mental Health Awards Gala each year.

While recognition is always welcomed, ultimately the role of a mental health champion is the first step in prevention. The real value of this support is priceless to both your employees—and your organization.

Guiding employees towards mental health resources

Employee Year-Round Care with Medcan integrates support for mental health conditions where valuable. Our physicians identify, treat and manage physical and mental health conditions either in clinic or by video visit.

When mental health needs are identified, Year-Round Care provides direct referrals to Medcan psychology or external services to provide the most effective treatment and support.

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