New voluntary standard aims to help improved mental health at work

Canadian employers looking to create a mental health policy in their workplace now have a new set of guidelines to get them started.

On Wednesday, the Mental Health Commission of Canada along with several other groups released a voluntary national standard that organizations can use to help them bring in measures to promote and protect their workers’ mental health.

The standard, called "Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace – Prevention, promotion and guidance to staged implementation," is focused on promoting the good mental health of employees, as well as preventing psychological harm from workplace stressors.

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Thanks to CSA, BCE and Bell Canada and many others for their initiative and aid in carrying this project through. I would like mental health consumers to be able to be in job where they can discuss their mental health with employers without stigma or the fear of losing their jobs. If one in five Canadians will have a mental health problem in any given year, how many in the workforce are experiencing problems?

Having flexible hours can help someone suffering from sedation from medication. Check-ins can also help if an employee has been absent for health reasons, exhibiting changes in their behaviour, or has a known mental illness. 

I do work for The Art Studios in Vancouver, a Vancouver Coastal Health program. In that environment, I feel safe because I can speak to the coordinator who is an occupational therapist about problems or conflicts I may have on the job or in related work. At The Art Studios, most of the instructors and all of the members are in recovery from a mental illness and/or addiction. To have someone there who is empathetic and non-judgmental and can give some suggestions or support is so important when one is re-entering the workforce or trying to maintain a job.

Human resources in large corporations or having someone on staff to oversee quality of performance and the general attitudes and behaviours of employees would be beneficial.  I believe creating a positive atmosphere with stress-reduction measures in regards to workloads and the workplace environment are important.

2013 Courage to Come Back Award Nominations Launch

This morning, I spoke at the Courage to Come Back Award 2013 Launch for Nominations held on the 34th floor of the Scotiabank Building. Coast Mental Health has done so much for the mental health community in the areas of housing, providing meals, activities, support, and building awareness. I'd like to thank them for the difference they've made in my life through this award. Here's what I had to say:

Hello my name is Sandra Yuen MacKay. I received the Courage to Come Back award last year in the mental health category. I struggled with schizoaffective disorder for many years. Tormented by hallucinations and delusions and dealing with side effects of medications, I felt my life was over many times. But I dug my way out and became an artist, writer and public speaker on recovery. I published a memoir My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness to share my story, build awareness and reduce stigma.

So a colleague and friend, who is the coordinator of The Art Studios, thought I was worthy of this award and nominated me. That in itself was an honor.

Then one morning, the phone rang, I picked up the phone, and it was Lorne Segal telling me I had been chosen for this award. I was absolutely thrilled. When I received the award and stood in front of over 1000 people at the gala, my life was definitely transformed on personal level and in the way others perceived me.

I met the other recipients and during that short time, we shared a bond knowing the trials we'd been through and the joy we felt upon receiving our awards together. To be part of that experience at the gala, where people opened their wallets and gave toward the foundation to help people in our own community was profound. Generosity and humanity flowed in that room.

Since the award, I was named as one of five Faces of Mental Illness in 2012, a national campaign which included advocating to Members of Parliament, appearing on Canada AM, and visiting the Governor General and his spouse in Ottawa.

This past fall, I spoke at a special event in Nanaimo, I was featured on a bus ad in Terrace, BC and I received a signed photo from the Minister of Defense praising me on my advocacy work. MP Don Davies called me from Ottawa to say how insightful my memoir was and encouraged me to write more.

All these things came on the heels of receiving the Courage to Come Back Award. I believe the Courage to Come Back award played a large part in subsequent events and successes in my life.

There are others who deserve this award. People that have walked through fire and emerged ready to aid and inspire others, to give others the courage to move forward. Your child, sibling, relative, friend or colleague could be the next Courage to Come Back recipient.

So, if you know someone who you think is worthy of this award, I urge you to nominate him or her. And that person may one day stand and be acknowledged for their perseverance and dedication to giving back to others.