How leaders can help employees overcome barriers to mental health help?

How leaders can help employees overcome barriers to mental health help?

By Brendon Buckler

The Ascend CIO (Chief Inclusion Officer) Forum recently gathered for a lively discussion about mental health, a topical issue that is intersecting at a time when more professional employees are returning to the office and amidst shifting macroeconomic and social realities.

Dr. Khush Amaria, Senior Director at CloudMD, a healthcare service provider, shared statistics that show 1 in 3 Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, yet 60 percent of people with a mental health problem or illness won’t seek help for fear of being labeled. [1]

Stress is a normal part of the human experience, with signs and symptoms varying by person, she said. However, mental illness is a diagnosable condition that is often long-lasting and is loosely defined by experiencing distress, impairment, withdrawal and/or major changes from normal lasting more than two weeks.

“Canadians are experiencing mental health problems, which can have dramatic impacts on our work places,” she said. This can lead to increased turnover, absenteeism, and costs for services to manage mental health.

In recent years, mental health and employee wellness have been more openly discussed. But there is more work to be done within the Pan-Asian community (and often, other underrepresented groups), where the most common barriers for not speaking up include:

  • Stigma/fear of prejudice
  • Intergenerational conflicts with western norms
  • Pragmatic barriers to access care
  • Cultural mistrust of ‘care providers’
  • Lack of culturally adaptive treatments
  • Lack of therapist diversity
  • Gaps in psychological safety in the workplace

How leaders can help?

Dr. Amaria offered three tips to help leaders create a safer and more inclusive workforce:

  • Engage in self-care: Promote the use of self-care and healthy stress management skill building in the workplace (or anyplace).
  • “Tell a story”: Shift individuals’ perceptions about mental health and illness by sharing stories and inspiring change.
  • Be a champion: Lead continued education on mental health supports and tools, while prioritizing the promotion of psychological safety and an inclusive organization.

Brendon is an Ascend Volunteer and acts as the deputy co-chair of the Ascend CIO Forum and leads the Strategic Partnerships work stream.

[1] Source: Ombudsman for Mental Health – People First