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Why employers need to step up their mental health support (Survey)

One in 10 Canadians have left or have considered leaving a job over lack of support
MENTAL HEALTH Thoughtful male person looking to the digital tablet screen, laptop screen,Silhouette and filter sun
Amidst resignation boom, new Sun Life survey finds employers must step up mental health support. (Shutterstock/one photo)

Eighteen months into the pandemic, it appears that Canada is still in the midst of a mental health crisis.

A new Sun Life survey found that many Canadians continue to suffer from mental health challenges. The majority of the country’s workforce (62%) said emotional, mental and physical fatigue was the top issue affecting them negatively. In a previous Sun Life study, released in December 2020, nearly 60% of Canadians said the pandemic continued to negatively impact their mental health.

In the most recent survey, a third (37%) of respondents indicated they feel unsafe to talk about mental health at work. Lack of trust in their employer was among the top reasons (55%), with embarrassment (50%) and fear of discrimination following closely behind (40%). Additionally, only 22% said their CEO or manager had talked about mental health in the last 12 months.

Companies and leaders that don’t step up their mental health support may see their employees hand in their notices. The survey found that one in 10 working Canadians have left (11%) or have considered leaving their job (10%) due to a lack of employer mental health support.

“We know that Canadians’ mental health states are at similar levels (self-identified) as they were last year during the height of the pandemic,” said Dave Jones, president of Sun Life Health, in an interview with Canadian Grocer. “People have been loud and clear and they’re voting with their feet, if you will. [The thinking is], ‘if my employer won’t support me better, then I’ll find a new employer.’ So, we see it as an imperative for businesses to have a mental health strategy, almost equated to a business strategy, to attract and retain people, and to build resilience in their organization.”

With the release of the survey findings, Sun Life suggested three simple actions for companies to help curb the crisis: review your company’s mental health benefits; take advantage of free resources on mental health; and commit to talking about mental health at work.

Asked how retailers that have both frontline and head office employees can support their staff, Jones said, “starting with a mental health strategy is the place to start,” regardless of the size or type of company. “Whether you’re evaluating your current benefits and employee support programs, or reviewing the types of coverages and benefits that exist, you need to do that right across the employee base.”

For example, Jones said grocery retailers can offer mental health training for managers, helping people learn how to de-stigmatize mental health, talk about it, and identify warning signs. “That’s something that’s equally relevant in the finance department as it is in the deli or meat department. And that type of benefit is something that should be offered right across the organization.”

To help organizations get the conversation started and start developing a strategy, Sun Life is providing free resources such as manager training videos and a digital mental health strategy toolkit.

The Sun Life survey is based on findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between Aug. 13 and 20, 2021. A sample of 1,500 Canadians was drawn from the Ipsos I-Say online panel aged 18 and older.

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