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Getting real about mental health

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Stress and uncertainty have been two defining characteristics of the COVID-19 pandemic and both are frequently cited as significant factors affecting mental well-being. A recent survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) found 40 per cent of Canadians reported that their mental health had deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic.

Recognizing the profound impact of the past two years, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade hosted a panel of mental health champions to discuss strategies that promote personal well-being and create a culture of empathy.

Mental health is a continuum, similar to physical health, and it's important to differentiate between mental well-being and mental illness. As Tara Sudbury, Manager of Community and Workplace Education at CMHA Vancouver-Fraser explained "Someone without a mental illness can have poor mental well-being just as a person with mental illness can have excellent mental well-being." Just like physical health, maintaining your mental health is an ongoing process that requires a concerted effort regardless of circumstances.

Amid growing social acceptance of conversations around emotional well-being, there's an emerging awareness of the need to see that shift reflected in the workplace. Mental health affects people on a personal level, but it is inextricably connected to their professional lives. Failing to create a work environment that takes mental health into consideration impacts both the productivity of individual employees and the organization as a whole.

The most difficult part about starting a conversation around mental health in the workplace is knowing how to get started. Gary Wang, Fortinet's Talent and Organizational Development Manager, explained how their top priority is providing new supports that could make a difference right away. The investment is paying dividends as he noted,

"all the conversations we are noticing from our managers have shifted and they are asking more sophisticated questions now. Our employees are now openly talking about their mental health more and more, which is great!"

Gary Wang, Talent and Organizations Development Manager, Fortinet

Recognizing the need for assistance programs, TELUS Health introduced a suite of services intended to address the barriers to accessing mental health supports. "Identification, stigma, accessibility, and affordability are the four major barriers which we are trying to address through the solutions that we forward through TELUS Health," Juggy Sihota-Chahil, Vice President of Consumer Health, explained.

Everyone benefits from talking about mental health and well-being. It's normal for people to experience stress and anxiety from time to time but creating a safe environment in which they feel comfortable initiating conversations around topics that impact their mental health is the first step towards ensuring they are able to seek help. From executive offices to schools and community organizations, building knowledge of mental well-being and the importance of self-awareness means that no one gets left behind.

There are many resources available for both individuals and employers in the Greater Vancouver region. If you are just getting started, or want to learn more, some useful resources are:

Crisis Centre BC is a hotline available to individuals of all ages experiencing an acute mental health crisis that can be reached 24/7 by calling 1-800-784-2433.

The Vancouver-Fraser Branch of the CMHA offers the Bounce Back program designed to help individuals overcome early symptoms of depressions and anxiety.

The TELUS Health website offers services for individuals and organizations alike, tailored to specific needs through their 3-step process of initial assessment, personalized care and timely treatment.

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