Mental Illness Awareness Week
For many years, I was the educational consultant to the Canadian Mental Health Association in Toronto, Ontario. In that capacity, I promoted mental health and awareness around mental illness. One of my proudest accomplishments was in developing several mental illness awareness workshops for frontline workers, agencies and caregivers that brought understanding and support strategies to those that worked directly with those experiencing a mental health challenge.
Knowledge Equals Hope
Today, through my own business, I still find that the most satisfying part of presenting is going into work with a group of participants who are fearful of mental illness, and opening their eyes to the realities of mental health and resilience. The proverbial light bulbs go off, stigma is lifted and their minds are opened to how they can better the lives of those who are experiencing a mental illness and build resiliency in their own lives.
Mental Illness Facts:
10 to 15% of Canadians are experiencing a work-limiting mental disorder.
20 to 25% of the population will experience a mental health disorder.
up to 40% of workers will experience a mental disorder.
Five Action Steps For Employers:
- Educate yourself. Educate others. Taking the time to learn about mental illness could make all the difference to you or to someone you care about. During this month - open your eyes and find your own path to helping a family member, a friend, a co-worker or a person you meet sitting there on the street who may desperately need your understanding and compassion. Bring mental health and mental illness workshops into the corporate world. Dispel myths by educating all the staff about causes, treatment, and personal experiences of mental illness. Promote resiliency and stress management programs.
- Examine policies and attitudes that prevent those experiencing a mental illness from getting the help that they need including access to benefits that support mental health. Discuss workload and mental health in annual performance interviews.
- Develop guidelines around accommodation. Be flexible in enforcing traditional policies including flex hours and time away from work. Develop human resource principles that are positive and constructive.
- Build a network of support and service providers that can be accessed by a team leader who may be concerned about an employee. Include a list of crisis response phone numbers such as distress hotlines, poison control, etc. Post these in workplace washrooms or other private spaces available to employees to allow for easy access by employees in crisis.
- Develop a comprehensive workplace wellness program that addresses the top sources of stress and impact on employee health and promotes resiliency building.
How Can You Help?
Beverly Beuermann-King is inviting media, employers, health care organizations and associations across the country to bring awareness to the issue of mental illness, coping with stress and creating balance and life satisfaction.
Spread the word!
Go ahead and post links to on-line articles and tools, develop and disseminate educational materials and/or start a social media discussion. It may be as simple as sending out a reminder that MIAW and World Mental Health day are just around the corner and encourage your employees to consciously plan to do some activities that will relax, re-energize and reconnect them to friends and family.
Beverly's Hot Tips For Building Resiliency:
- Identify the sources of stress in your life. They may not all be large and in-your-face issues. Some sources of stress are irritating annoyances that have built up over time. This Resiliency Test on might help:
- Evaluate what you are already doing that is positive to deal with your stress. How have you handled difficult situations in the past? What are you doing to keep yourself healthy? The answers to these questions may give you an idea of your positive copers. Then see what strategies may fill in the gaps.
- Talk to those around you. Find out how others may have handled similar situations. Chances are someone in your social network has already 'been there and done that'. Their strategies may or may not be useful to you, but they can certainly give you a starting point.
- Look to your community for more information. Your company, through it's HR department or EAP, may have access to additional information. The local health unit, CMHA and Distress Centres can also point you in the right direction. You may find that talking to your doctor, spiritual adviser or community leader may provide you with some insights.
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!