Mental Illness Awareness Week: Five Action Steps For Employers

depression mental illness and stressOn any given day, 10 to 15 per cent of Canadians are experiencing a work-limiting mental disorder. Over the course of a year, 20 to 25 per cent of the population will experience mental disorders. Over the course of their working lives, up to 40 per cent of workers will experience a mental disorder. Fewer than 30 per cent of those who need treatment actually get it.

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness. The first full week in October was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH).


Mental health is the number one cause of disability claims in Canada. Yet acknowledging the issue and taking subsequent action has presented a challenge to the business community. In a recent survey of Ontario Chamber of Commerce members, they discovered a “mental health action gap”: while a majority of businesses believe investing in mental health is important, few firms were taking concrete action. It is estimated that 10-25% of these disability costs could be avoided by employers taking action.


Five Action Steps For Employers:

Mental Illness Awareness Week is a great time for individuals and companies alike to bring mental illness issues out into the open.

  1. Educate yourself. Educate others. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Develop a comprehensive workplace wellness program that addresses the top sources of stress and impact on employee health and promotes resiliency building.


Beverly’s Final Thoughts:

Taking the time to learn about mental illness could make all the difference to you or to someone on your team. During this month – open your eyes and find your own path to helping someone who may desperately need your understanding and compassion.



Is there a stigma around mental health issues in your workplace?
Does your company celebrate mental illness awareness week?
Is your company supportive of those who have a mental health issue?


If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!


Do you need someone to work with your leaders on developing a supportive culture?
If so, Beverly Can Provide This Training. Please feel free to call and discuss the details at: 705-786-0437

Beverly Can Help

A More Psychologically Healthy Workplace – Training for Leaders

  • understand and identify mental health and mental illness issues and risks in your team
  • develop an understanding and strategies for supporting those experiencing a mental health issue


To find out more about bringing this workshop to your leaders, call Beverly at 705-786-0437 or send an email to



Additional Postings:

Care Communicate Connect: Mental Illness Awareness Week

National Depression Screening Day

De-Mystifying Delusions and Hallucinations

How Can You Tell If It Is Depression

Children and Suicide

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Lessening The Anguish of Depression Through Supportive Workplace Conversations

Season of Darkness

World Suicide Prevention Day

Workplace Wellness: Psychologically Healthy Workplaces



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Written by Beverly Beuermann-King

Building Resiliency Through Stress and Wellness Strategies. Stress and resiliency strategist, Beverly Beuermann-King, CSP, translates current research and best practices information into a realistic, accessible and more practical approach through her dynamic stress and wellness workshops, on-line stress and resiliency articles, books, e-briefs and media interviews.

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