Canadian Association for Supported Employment

Mental Health in the Workplace

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, approximately one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in any given calendar year. While the causes of mental illness can be complex, each instance can have a profound impact on the individual and can, consequently, affect them in the workplace.

Create a Safe Space at Work

Mental health circumstances, challenges, and needs are unique to each individual. They manifest differently for each person as they navigate life while working to balance their mental health. A supportive and aware work environment offers team members a safe place to manage their mental health.

The stigmas around mental illness can be the greatest barrier some people face in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all team members, including psychological safety. 

Embed Mental Health in Policies and Practices

Beyond a workplace that is free of bullying and lateral violence and that maintains employment standards, policies and practices can be enhanced to remove stigma around mental illness. 

For instance, health plans that include mental health supports demonstrate a commitment to creating an inclusive space and are valued by employees and job seekers. 

Supports for mental health are often seen as part of the organization’s regular health and dental plans and can include access to psychological or counselling services, an emergency assistance program, etc.

Two women, one with long hair and medium skin and one with short curly hair and dark skin, are sitting at a table beside a window at work and talking.

Credit: Christina Wocintechchat – Unsplash 

They can include the ways in which we support our team members in their day-to-day activities:

  • Providing quiet spaces and the time to use them can give people a needed break in the middle of their day when they need it.
  • Checking in with team members shows concern and gives them the opportunity to discuss challenges they may be having before impacts are visible to outside parties.
  • Discussion also creates safety when experiences that are shared are validated and supported.

Safe Spaces Strengthen Relationships and Increase Productivity

Living by the policies your organization has established will also show consistency and open support for those who choose to seek help. Feeling safe to express their personal needs will enhance their relationship with leadership and coworkers.

Supporting team members who are experiencing the impacts of mental illness can not only ease their trauma but assist with a positive outlook and personal and professional productivity. Healthy team members, in all respects, make for more engaged workers and more productive organizations.

Small steps taken to recognize the supports your teams need, the effort to create psychologically safe workplaces, and your personal commitment to acknowledging the impact mental health challenges can have on an individual and an organization will empower you to be a better leader and to lead a more cohesive team.

Mental Health

A state of well-being. Includes emotions, feelings of connection, thoughts and feelings, ability to manage life’s highs/lows.

Mental Illness

A health problem that can affect the way we think about ourselves, relate to others, and interact with the world around us. 

Everyone will experience challenges regarding their mental well-being, but not everyone will experience a mental illness. 

By age 40, about 50% of Canadians will have or have had a mental illness.

The symptoms of mental illnesses can be treated and very often managed effectively. With the right supports, people with mental illnesses can thrive.

Who is impacted?

Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures. 

However, systemic inequalities, such as racism, poverty, homelessness, discrimination, and colonial and gender-based violence, among others, can worsen mental health and symptoms of mental illness, especially if mental health supports are difficult to access.

Source – Canadian Mental Health Association website: