Sick and Tired: Part 2



On Monday April 18, 2016, May Warren, a guest reporter for the Toronto Star, wrote an article entitled MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES TAKE A TOLL ON WORKERS—AND EMPLOYERS, TOO. The article described circumstances and situations where employees felt compelled to NOT report certain conditions to the employer, including but not limited to mental health issues for fear of stigma at the workplace.

What was remarkable about the article was that one of the people interviewed was Dr. Kwame McKenzie, former Medical Director at CAMH, now CEO of the Wellesley Institute and a member of Civic Action’s Mental Health Advisory Group. McKenzie called workplace mental health one of the last taboos”.

Says McKenzie: “and then the worse type of time off is a mental health problem, because of the high levels of stigma. They say ‘oh, you’re just not coping, man’” .

What is happening in the GTA at the moment is not all companies are thinking it through, and because of that people are breaking, the article states. Further, according to the report, mental health disorders are a top reason why people take short term disability.

McKenzie then says “If we’ve got that many people, half the workforce, with mental health issues, then we are shooting ourselves it the foot with regards to productivity”.

Paula Allen, VP of research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell which conducted a workplace survey as part of the report, said emotional and interpersonal issues can be a huge source of stress at the office, whether they stem from poor management or troubles with other colleagues. Allen says “A lot of organizations, when you talk about stress and workplace stress, they say immediately ‘we’ve got deadlines and we can’t get rid of deadlines, we can’t change the job…”

Elements need to be built into a company’s business strategy, such as manager training on the topic and leadership from the top, to address risks to mental health and help people cope with these issues so it becomes the norm… seeking support is a sign of strength and self-awareness and it should never be confused with weakness and shame…”

Wow!!!!! What a concept—hard to believe that an organization such as CAMH does not recognize these concepts for their own employees. Dr. Kwame McKenzie worked at CAMH for years—yet the Union never heard or were aware that he might speak out in defense of employees who have mental health issues within CAMH, and we certainly are, on a regular basis stigmatized for coming forward in an organization which touts itself as a centre of excellence in dealing with people with mental health issues.

Where is the disconnect? At the Unions’ last Labour Management Meeting (LMC) we asked to change insurance carriers—we asked to leave Desjardins in favour of a company who might better align itself with the values CAMH espouses. Better yet—one might think CAMH would exert some authority where it actually counts and teach insurance companies what ‘treating people with mental health issues looks like’. Alas, they care to not be leaders in this field.

We all know employees who are not coping and many of us know why—here is what you can do:

  1. reach out and listen
  2. assist your colleague if they are look frazzled or hurried
  3. do NOT gossip or become a bully toward your colleague (you could be next)
  4. offer your colleague assistance if they request it.

The Union plans to connect with May Warren, and take her on a tour of disability within CAMH! We will keep you all posted in the next article…

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