June 29, 2023 from Canadian HR Reporter
The toll on mental health has become an undeniable obstacle for many workers. This issue is illustrated by the fact that approximately 500,000 Canadians find themselves unable to work each week due to mental illness.
A survey commissioned by the Future Skills Centre sheds light on the prevalence of mental health challenges, reporting that 38% of workers had taken time off in the last five years owing to mental health difficulties, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout.
It is also revealed that almost half of these individuals took a substantial month-long leave of absence. A poll of over 500 Canadians reinforces the severity, indicating that employees miss an average of 12 days annually due to mental health issues. The financial repercussions are staggering, with the cost of absenteeism and disability reaching $50 billion annually, and employers facing a $17 billion hit due to lost productivity.
A recent survey stated that Canadian organizations are bleeding $200 billion yearly due to mental health emergencies, hitting younger workers the hardest, with 40% in the 18 to 24 age range experiencing burnout.
Identifying Root Causes
According to Future Skills Centre, 62% of survey participants named money as a major stressor that negatively impacted their mental health.
Financial concerns loom large, with 30% worried about inadequate retirement savings and 48% feeling their salaries can’t keep up with the rising cost of living. Workplace conditions are also significant, as 35% reported burnout, and half claimed their employment had a detrimental impact on their mental health. A staggering 80% of those who took time off attributed their mental health issues to job demands and workplace culture.
Employer Responsibility and Action
Employers play a pivotal role, as highlighted by Olga Morawczynski and Jessica Roberts in the report Improving Quality of Work in Canada: Prioritizing mental health with diverse and inclusive benefits.
The authors stated that “The role of employers in supporting the mental health and overall well-being of workers is therefore critical.”. Morawcynski and Roberts highlighted that the reality falls short, with research indicating that a relatively small number of employers invest in programs to evaluate and manage workplace effects on mental health.
Statistics Canada further underscores the severity, noting that workers in the health care and social assistance sectors face the highest stress levels at work.
The Future Skills Centre assessment reveals a stark discrepancy, detailing that even though 58% of survey participants believe that enhancing mental health is a wellness objective, less than 25% of respondents use care models that are paid for by benefits. According to the authors, this points to a critical need for more flexibility in mental health benefits, covering a variety of care options.
Solutions and Recommendations
The path forward involves proactive measures. Employers and benefit providers could initially raise the maximum amounts allowed for mental health care while broadening the scope of practitioners and modalities covered under benefit plans.
The authors emphasize that without addressing these issues, both employers and benefit providers will face even higher costs, and workers’ overall well-being will continue to deteriorate.
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