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Why It's Important for CEOs to Be Knowledgeable About Mental Illness

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Don’t be fooled. Even if your bottom line is healthy, that doesn’t mean your employees are. Mental illness is invisible. As a CEO, you’re responsible for creating a workplace that supports the growth of your business as well as the health of your employees. Here are three things to remember:

1. It is in your workplace.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians of working age will experience a mental illness in a given year. The other four are indirectly affected by the illness.

2. It is affecting your bottom line.

The cost to the Canadian economy is in excess of $50 billion according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Mental health problems and illnesses account for approximately 30 percent of short and long-term disability claims and are the fastest growing category of disability costs in Canada. They also account for more than six billion dollars in lost productivity costs due to absenteeism and presenteeism.

3. You can do something about it.

People do and can recover from mental illnesses with timely and appropriate treatment. People, like myself, can return to living rich, full lives and have satisfying and productive careers.

You are part of the solution. Here are four ways you can help:

  1. Model open mindedness and a non-judgmental attitude.
  2. Speak openly about your own mental health: Be candid about your own experience with mental illness if you have such experiences. Top down solutions are powerful.
  3. Create an accepting workplace: Encourage everyone to talk about mental health issues as easily as one would speak about physical conditions.
  4. Proactively support employees’ mental health: Implement some of the evidence based guidelines of a psychologically healthy and safe workplace.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has endorsed these standards as a way of working towards and positively affecting the mental health of your most valued investment: your workers.

Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace materials can be found here.

The O.A.R.S. (Observe, Ask + Actively Listen, Refer, Support) is a free e-guide resource I created to address mental illness in the workplace. I created O.A.R.S. as a framework of what to do when a colleague or employee may be dealing with a mental health issue. Read it and see if helps you feel more confident addressing mental health issues in your workplace.

As a CEO you juggle innumerable, pivotal responsibilities. In your role you have the power to set the tone for the work environment. Use your influence for good and create a legacy of not only a healthy bottom line, but a healthy workforce.

For an in-depth look at the O.A.R,S. framework and other strategies, check these other two Psychology Today posts:

Follow this journey on Victoria Maxwell’s site


Getty image by scyther5

Originally published: August 21, 2019
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