An Employee’s Guide for Protecting Your Mental Health
Canadian Equality Consulting recognizes the importance of acknowledging and supporting mental health in the workplace. Mental health is a prevalent concern that affects individuals of all ages, whether that be from personal experiences or experiences of a friend or family member. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness.
This blog is part one of a two-part series that aims to discuss the impact of mental health and how mental health leave can be used to support individuals in their wellness journey.
As you read through, we encourage you to learn about the nuances around mental health and discover how you may be able to help yourself or others to reduce stress and prioritize your health. To find additional resources and programs supporting mental health, please visit Canadian Equality Subscription Services.
What is Mental Health?
As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” When an individual has poor mental health, it can affect their personal and work lives. Canadian Equality Consulting offers DEI training, where we discuss the intersection of identities that can impact an individual’s mental health. For example, a decrease in one’s mental health can be caused by a multitude of challenges, including social, economic, or environmental pressures, childhood adversity, biological factors, and many other influences.
What is Mental Health Leave?
Mental health leave is taken when individuals are experiencing high levels of stress, which negatively affects their productivity and concentration in the workplace. Since stress is often linked to mental health, this leave is also known as “Sick Leave.” This time away from work is an opportunity to be removed from the source of stress and to prioritize wellness and self-care. Promoting and destigmatizing mental health leave can demonstrate inclusion in the workplace.
How do you Recognize Burnout?
There are signs that indicate you have reached the stage of burnout. You will notice this when you have reduced energy, lower levels of motivation, irritability, increased frustration, and increased errors in day-to-day tasks. If left unaddressed, burnout can fester into clinical depression, increased absenteeism and turnover, and communication breakdown.
How do you Determine if you Need to Take a Mental Health Leave?
When an individual’s stress begins to take over their ability to function at work, this is a key indicator that it is time for a mental health leave. Other signs might be identifying your relationships that are suffering, inability to find time for any form of self-care, and finding yourself spending more time on work with less being accomplished.
Who is Entitled to a Mental Health Leave in Canada?
Any employee who experiences severe stress over a period is entitled to mental health leave. This should be stated in a policy in one’s employment contract, or under Employment Standards. Canadian Equality Consulting can support your organization in creating policies around mental health leave to signify the importance of prioritizing mental health.
Common Mental Health Stigmas in the Workplace
Stigmas formed around mental health prevent employees from being vulnerable and reaching out when they need support. When employers do not provide a safe place for their employees to communicate that they are having a bad day or need time away from work, it creates the stigma that having conversations around mental health is not a priority. Alternatively, when employees are questioned about whether they are truly struggling or using it as an excuse for time off, it creates the stigma that mental health issues are chosen. One approach to combatting these stigmas is to mandate diversity and inclusion training in your organization to create a culture where everyone feels supported and respected.
Common Misconceptions Regarding Mental Health Leaves
Some folks choose to believe that mental illnesses are not recoverable, and therefore time away to prioritize mental health is ineffective. Others believe that stress is normal and does not require absence from work to deal with, which to a certain extent is true, but is not something to be pushed aside or taken lightly either. Although these ideas around mental health leaves have been normalized, organizations should be taking steps toward addressing these misconceptions.
Canadian Equality Consulting offers DEI training in the forms of e-courses, webinars, and workshops. Mental health is partially discussed in each of our topics, especially in psychological safety and equitable and inclusive leadership. However, all our content is customizable, which means we can work with your organization to create a separate section on mental health specific to your workplace.
If you are interested in what you’ve learned thus far, please visit part two of this blog series: An Employer’s Guide for Supporting Workplace Mental Health.