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About the Guide

Many Canadian organizations know they need to create a mentally healthy workplace and to adopt mentally healthy practices and policies. However, many do not know what constitutes a mentally healthy workplace, how it would function or how to start moving toward creating one. According to Shepell-fgi, 84 percent of organizations have no process in place to address significant changes in employee productivity or behaviours.[1]

This guide is not specifically focused on working with individuals experiencing mental illness within the workplace; however, the promotion of mental health within a workplace positively affects those with and without mental illness. Therefore, downstream and reactive workplace topics that focus on mental illness, such as return-to-work and accommodation, will not be discussed in this resource. However, with one in five Canadians experiencing a mental illness, breaking down stigma and discrimination within the workplace is an important part of creating a mentally healthy workplace. Therefore, stigma and discrimination will be addressed. As stigma and discrimination are reduced, employees who have a mental illness are able to receive the support they need. Also, this will ensure that other employees, who do not currently have a mental illness, will know that it’s safe to seek help if ever needed.


Over the past couple of years there has been a stronger demand to address stress, mental health and mental illness in the workplace. The financial cost associated with mental illness to the Canadian economy is staggering at an estimated $51 billion per year from health care expenditures and lost productivity.[2] In fact, 56 percent of Canadian employers consider the continuous rise in employee mental health claims to be a top concern.[3] With most adults spending so many of their waking hours at work, the workplace environment is now acknowledged as a key determinant of health.

CMHA Ontario and THCU are not strangers to working collaboratively with the private and public sector to assist in improving workplace environments. Both organizations have conducted needs assessments and have identified a need to develop further support information on mental health promotion in the workplace, specifically around CWHP. For more information on CMHA’s study entitled Research Snapshot: Workplace Health Promotion, see http://www.ontario.cmha.ca/network_story.asp?cID=121256.

[1] “The missing link: supervisor’s role in employee health management. Shepell-fgi. (2009) http://www.shepellfgi.com/EN-US/AboutUs/News/Research%20Report/pdf/The_Missing_Link.pdf (accessed January 6, 2010).

[2] C.S. Dewa, et al., “A new population-based measure of the burden of mental illness in Canada.” Chronic Diseases in Canada. 28(3) (2008): 92.

[3] Watson Wyatt, “Mental Health claims on the rise in Canada,” Staying @Work Survey, (2005) http://www.watsonwyatt.com/news/press.asp?ID=14547 (accessed January 6, 2010).