Mental health indirectly affects all Canadians at some point through a family member, friend or colleague. It does not discriminate against ages, education, income levels, and cultures.

It is an important topic for me, and earlier today, I had the exciting opportunity to participate on a panel of industry experts on the topic of “Mental health and the future of work: a mindful approach” at MindWellU.

In 2017, the Human Resources Professionals Association sponsored the Research Report: The Evolution of Workplace Mental Health in Canada, that was done by the “Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace” which states with roughly 20 per cent of Canadian workers missing three or more work days a year due to depression, stress, anxiety and other mental health-related disorders, the costs of mental health problems to the Canadian economy are estimated at $15 billion. Two thirds of that cost borne to employers.

As more and more organizations continue to take stock of their own workplace, policies and financial risk, many are developing strategies to identify gaps and better support their employees.

Human resource professionals fill those gaps of an organization, performing many small and large tasks that may not fit anywhere else. Yet, the most important role HR ensuring individual employees and teams develop ways to work through any forthcoming issues and continue high rates of productivity.

HR professionals are not trained psychiatrists, but understanding an HR professional’s main purpose is to safeguard employees, and do all they can to create and promote a mentally healthy workplace is not only the right thing to do, but a legal, business and health necessity.

HR professionals manage benefits packages, they oversee payroll, manage recruitment and termination, and they offer professional development services to grow employees’ applicable skills and knowledge; and perhaps most important of all, they listen, respond, and act appropriately to workers’ personal problems.

Each above-listed duty places an HR professional on the frontlines of mental health in the workplace, making it imperative that they understand how to conduct themselves appropriately in these delicate situations.

When designing and implementing a new policy, program, decision or change in strategy, HR professionals and employers should consider the impact it may have on employees’ mental health.

When an employee feels supported, they will feel more freely to express concern allowing an HR professional to address those concerns and improve workplace culture, engage employees, and stimulate increased productivity.

Mental health is no longer something we can ignore in the workplace. Failure to adjust and support employees ultimately will affect productivity and quality of life. For more information and resources available, visit our website.