The Growing Importance of Mental Health
More and more, employers are encouraging their employees to speak up about their state of mental health and wellness. They want to ensure there is greater awareness of the importance and benefits of healthy minds at work.
While mental health and wellness had been part of the dialogue with employees for years, in 2017, we followed more closely the statistics from our Employee Assistance Program in Canada (a common program) to gain insight into the employees’ needs. Since the program implementation in 2013, we saw a year by year increase in use from 8% of employees in 2013 to about 12% in 2017.
Because the program is confidential, it is difficult to assess if the cause of the increase is simply that the program is better known or if there is an increased need by the employees. However, we can see commonalities in the motives. Work related stress plays a role but employees also suffer from stressors in their home life that affect their mental health and their well-being at work.
In 2017, Agnico Eagle took a preventive approach and launched training for its supervisors to ensure they had the tools to recognize the signs and symptoms of an employee dealing with mental health and stress issues. They would then ensure the employee understood there were professional resources and options available to help them, through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and anonymous professional-help phone lines.
Guillaume Lachapelle, Agnico Eagle’s Corporate Director of Health and Safety, says, “We want to make mental health a normal part of the conversation so there is no stigma involved. We don’t want people to be afraid or ashamed to open a dialogue on these matters.”
“Agnico Eagle has an excellent reputation for health and safety and we want to encourage people to take advantage of the mental health services we offer, and the wellness initiatives offered at our sites, such as lunchtime walks and cross-country activities. This type of support is particularly valued by our young new employees. We are one big family at Agnico Eagle, and we take care of each other. This is our way.”
Employees are increasingly availing themselves of the EAP services and overall reaction to the mental health awareness program has been positive and strong.
The program continued in 2018 with a presentation to the senior leadership team on mental health and stress awareness. On-site training will continue and be customized to meet local needs. For example, nurses in Nunavut are adapting mental health training and awareness to consider the stresses and isolation of a 2-week fly-in fly-out schedule and the cultural needs and differences of Inuit employees.
Some of our local initiatives regarding wellness are getting some traction. The Goldex mine in Quebec has recently undergone an audit and received external certification of its Healthy Workplace Program – the first mine in Quebec to achieve this designation.
Health and wellness is a journey that can start at home but needs to continue at the workplace.