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Mental health issues are prominent in workplaces

SIMCOE, ON, Oct. 23, 2009 – Depression is the leading cause of disability claims in the workplace and managers need to play a lead role in creating a workplace culture that responds meaningfully to all mental health situations.

That was a central message emerging from a workplace health networking breakfast Oct. 21 sponsored by Project Health, a collaboration of community-based Health Action and the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit.

Held at the Greens of Renton golf club and entitled, “Issues and Solutions: Managing Mental Health in the Workplace,” the breakfast drew approximately 40 participants from workplaces in Haldimand and Norfolk.

Guest speaker Lindsay Salm Dube, a Certified Mental Health Works trainer, pointed out that one in five people will experience a mental illness such as depression or anxiety in their lifetime. The majority of episodes will be in prime working years, between the ages of 18 and 65.

“Two out of three sufferers will not seek help, which is a major reason we decided it was important to hold this networking breakfast,” said the Health Unit’s Julia Hartley, Workplace Health Promoter.

Participants learned that it is important for all employees to be aware of signs of depression and anxiety in their colleagues. However, it was noted that managers are responsible for workplace culture and have a special obligation to intervene to help employees.

“Talking about a person’s behaviour and not doing anything to help them is counterproductive,” Hartley said. “Due to the stigma around stress, depression and anxiety, many people tend to avoid dealing with it. Even the person suffering may refuse to admit to the illness.”

Managers should intervene in a supportive, compassionate way when they see signs of mental stress, Hartley said. “As in most workplace situations, open communication is the key.”

The networking breakfasts are held on a regular basis.

“These breakfast gatherings provide an avenue for workplace managers to learn from one another’s initiatives,” Hartley pointed out. “These messages can then be taken back into the workplaces to improve the health and welfare of all employees.”

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Media Contact: Julia Hartley, Workplace Health Promoter
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, 519-426-6170 Ext 3236 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3236