Consultants say employers should be aware of mental health of staff

Employers with an eye on the bottom line might want to expand their focus to include the mental state of their staff.

Employers with an eye on the bottom line might want to expand their focus to include the mental state of their staff.

The two are closely linked, say workplace consultants Dana Couillard and Derrick Peterson.

The two men described on Wednesday how depression and other mental disorders take a nearly 14 per cent bite out of Canadian companies’ profits, and erode productivity nationwide by approximately $53 billion a year. Yet most businesses aren’t aware of these losses.

“It’s like an iceberg,” said Couillard. “The bulk of it is hidden below the surface; we simply don’t see the impact.”

Couillard, who operates Perception Ridge Institute in Lethbridge, and Peterson, who is with employee benefit consulting firm Silverberg Group in Red Deer, shared their insights during a luncheon presentation organized by the Central Alberta Rural Manufacturers Association. They detailed the many direct and indirect costs that result from having a psychologically unsafe workplace.

These include high turnover and the associated costs of finding and training replacements, higher absenteeism and lower productivity from employees who are at work, reduced worker satisfaction and commitment to their jobs, more accidents, and greater health insurance and long-term disability claims.

“As a result, overall you’ve got the squeeze that most businesses don’t want: productivity going down and costs going up,” said Couillard. “That contributes to a red bottom line, not a black bottom line.”

He and Peterson pointed out that mental illness can also contribute to range of physical ailments: substance abuse, heart problems, back pain, infections, injuries and even some cancers.

“In 2007, for Canada, mental health was the leading cause of STDs (short-term disabilities) and LTDs (long-term disabilities),” said Couillard. “And by 2020, this gap is expected to increase.”

Materials distributed by the two men suggested that there are two components to a psychologically safe workplace: the prevention of abusive treatment of staff by supervisors and co-workers, and proper management of staff with mental disorders. However, many organizations choose instead to ignore the problem.

“If you do nothing, it doesn’t go away,” said Couillard.

In fact, he added, companies that lack policies and procedures to create a psychologically safe workplace face a growing risk of legal action and government regulations that will force them to act.

“There’s a stick that’s coming, and it’s getting bigger and bigger.”

He said the Mental Health Commission of Canada is developing standards for what a psychologically healthy workplace should look like. Legislation like the Occupational Health and Safety Act is likely to follow.

Couillard and Peterson presented stats indicating that 12 per cent of workers have a mental illness, and that as many as one in five working Canadians experience a stress-related illness each year.

Couillard, who is a former school teacher and deputy superintendent, said he was diagnosed with depression nearly two decades ago.

“I always assumed it was a sign of stress,” he said of his symptoms.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains eyes a loose puck in front of the Medicine Hat Tigers net Saturday night in WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels fall short in 12th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 (Saturday) Tigers 3 Rebels 2 (Monday) The Red… Continue reading

Red Deer property owners will receive their 2019 property assessment notices in the next few days.  (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer awaiting more details on how federal budget impacts city

The City of Red Deer is awaiting more information on how much… Continue reading

With a ban on sit-in dining once again in place, Las Palmeras owner Andre Lemus is gearing up for more takeout and delivery business. He has also applied to set up an outdoor patio, where dining is allowed under new restrictions. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Big interest in outdoor patios in Red Deer as sit-down dining banned again

City of Red Deer has tweaked its patio regulations to make it easier to get a permit

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, scores on Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Alta., Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Priestman says her goal is to help Canada move up the Olympic podium after back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Canada's Brendan Bottcher dropped a 6-3 decision to Scotland's Bruce Mouat in the men's final of the Humpty's Champions Cup. Bottcher makes a shot against Scotland at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Friday, April 9, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Stewart Cink watches his drive down the second fairway during the final round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Sunday, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

The Official UEFA Champions League match balls are on display ahead of the Champions League quarter final second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) motions to the crowd during a break to mark his passing Gordie Howe for most NHL games played in the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 19, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Most Read