The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, in affiliation with the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, has released a toolkit—Working Towards Mental Wellness—that is designed to help employers develop their own mentally healthy workplace.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is a member of the Ontario Chamber Network.

Some 1 in 5 Canadians of working age living with a mental health problem or illness and the lack of appropriate support at their place of employment has created what the Chamber says is a “mental health action gap.”

A recent survey of Ontario Chamber of Commerce members found that 81 per cent of employers believe spending on employees’ health and well-being is a good investment. At the same time, only 40 per cent of businesses have a formal mental health strategy in place.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce encourages employers to follow the new toolkit in developing their own mentally healthy workplace.

“This is an initiative that can be one of the most impactful, in a positive way, that employers can take,” said Shirley de Silva, CEO and president of the local Chamber. “The toolkit offered as part of our affiliation with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start, with clearly stated benefits from a healthy workplace, definitions of what a healthy workplace looks like, and the steps businesses should take to take meaningful action in addressing mental health in the workplace.”

De Silva said leadership, strategy and resources are all part of what is required to build a mentally healthy workplace.

“Fundamentally, however, organizations need to foster a culture at all levels in their organization that supports the goal of a mentally healthy workplace,” added de Silva.

The Chamber toolkit lays out three initial steps for employers to start taking action on mental health in the workplace:

Setting expectations. Identify your organization’s unique needs and solicit employee buy-in for change. Ask yourself what you are doing each day to model mental wellness at work.

Creating a supportive environment. Make sure all employees feel welcome and able to talk about their mental and physical challenges without fear of judgment or reprisal, by encouraging culture change at all levels of the organization.

Maintaining the conversation. Regularly measure the health of your organization to ensure that mental wellness strategies are not left on the shelf, and link action taken to results.

More resources to help employers build their own mental health strategies can be found on the Ontario Chamber of Commerce website.