Mental health issues dominate convention

voting cardIssues of mental health in and around the workplace dominated discussion at the CUPE Alberta convention on Thursday morning. Two committee reports (Global Justice and Equal Opportunities) as well as a number of resolutions dealt with the subject.

Delegates heard a presentation from Claudia Canales & Andrew Szeto about the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

“There is a common myth that those who ‘suck it up’ are strong,” said Szeto.  “Those who share their story are the strong ones.”

Szeto said the Mental Health Commission, an arm’s length organization funded by the Federal Government, aims to reduce the stigma about mental health in Canada and open minds.

According to the commission, one in five Canadians have a mental illness each year. Almost 500,000 Canadians will not go to work because of mental illness, at a cost of $51 billion per year to hospitals, insurance costs, lost wages, and other costs.  Szeto calls that figure conservative, since it doesn’t include ‘presenteeism’ and many other costs associated with mental health.

There is help for many people with mental health problems, but the stigma remains a barrier. According to Szeto, between 50%-65% won’t seek help; but help seeking leads to better prognosis, increased productivity and a positive financial impact.

In addition, doing nothing adds costs to employers due to staff turnover, legal implications and injuries.