I am sure you are familiar with the term Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S), well by extension Psychological Health and Safety (PH&S) is the preventative field that address psychological risk factors in the workplace. Typically OH&S has focused on the physical injuries workers are at risk for while on the job, such condition like repetitive strain or carpal tunnel – as well as they attempted to prevent accidents that would cause physical trauma to worker. The recent acknowledgement of the disabling effects of poor mental health, and the cost it can have for employers has started to shift the priorities of employers to at least the very basic level acknowledgement to the need to discuss mental health at work.
Partners for mental health have launched the Not Myself Campaign, which estimates that the prevalence of depression to be 1 in 4 workers currently suffering. It is estimated that an average of half a million Canadian miss work everyday because of a mental health issues. If one-quarter of our workforce was missing work because of any other health condition we would be calling this a pandemic and the media would be covering this crisis. But no one seems to be all that concerned? Why not? Do people still not recognize the disabling impact this is having on Canadians, the amount of loss of production is staggering.
The recent recognition by compensation boards in Canada to recognize mental health as legitimate claim to be off work has forced employers to finally see the cost and impact this is having on their bottom line. Employers are more motivated than ever to address issues in the workplace, and with the introduction of the new Canadian Standard Act on psychological health and safety employers also now have the guidelines required.
So what are the next steps? Well we need to hold employers accountable for their workplaces being both physically and psychologically safe. Its time that we start developing some practical how-to ideas and programs to implemented in the workplace. The current challenge is to recognize and take this issue seriously, as well as provide employers with the tools to safeguard their employees.