January 25th 2022
By: Nicolas Roy

Mental Health: We All Have a Role to Play!

I need to talk to you. I have something important to tell you… will you listen to me?

  • Did you know that one in four employed Canadians say their personal and professional lives have deteriorated since the pandemic started [1]?
  • Did you know that managers are 70% more likely to experience episodes of crisis and anxiety about their own mental health than those without employees in their charge [2]?
  • Did you know that one in four Canadians over the age of 18 screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the spring of 2021 [3]?
  • Did you know that more than one in three Canadians will be affected by a mental illness in their lifetime [4]?

Without Sounding Alarmist… This Is a Serious Matter!

These statistics are worrisome and make us realize that we will ALL be affected in some way by a person struggling with a mental health issue. Collectively becoming aware of this situation is the first step towards improving it and ultimately “destigmatizing” it.

The Pandemic: An Aggravating Factor

The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is significant. Several studies indicate a deterioration in this pillar of human health. Let me ask you a question: what do you do when you have an excruciating pain in your leg that prevents you from walking, a stomachache that won’t go away, or even a rash that doesn’t feel right? You tell someone about it, don’t you? Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a colleague or a specialist. You quickly call 811 for reassurance or guidance. No one judges you because you are in pain and are looking for help. Do you recognize yourself in this situation? I do. It is normal! This reflex is deeply rooted when it comes to concerns that directly affect physical health!

It is time to apply this reflex to mental health, because it is just as important as physical health! We must realize this now more than ever. Many efforts are being made to “destigmatize” mental health. The “Let’s talk” day is a good example. But we must make it a priority today, tomorrow, and every other day of the year!

I would like to share with you some approaches that can be taken by organizations (and particularly by senior management) to promote the mental health of their employees, but also by you and me, in our daily work.

Awareness. Awareness. Awareness.

Mental health needs to be at the center of discussions within an organization. Senior management must lead by example and make mental health a central part of their management and leadership. Be able to not only talk about it, but to personify this change in thinking and mindset. To ensure the success of this approach, everyone must be able to speak the same language when it comes to mental health. As mental health specialist Chantal Dufort would say, to prevent mental health from remaining a taboo subject, we must talk about it, but speak the same language. An organization needs to educate its employees on what mental health is and what it entails. Senior management must set the tone by taking concrete action to bring about a profound change in behaviour. How can this be done? By investing in employee training (including managers), organizing information sessions on the subject and holding work sessions on topics that affect mental health.

Demonstrate Compassion 

Having the ability to listen, understand and be sensitive to how another person feels is so important in the workplace. However, is it enough? Because this has limits in terms of how much you can help a person. Having a compassionate approach is the next logical step in empathy. Not only do I understand how you feel, but I am here to help you. In a context where mental health is at stake, this becomes even more important. This approach helps guide the other person towards possible options or solutions. Be present and act as a coach, mentor, and guide.

Working on Happiness at Work

Happiness at work is intimately linked to the mental health of workers. A strong correlation exists between these two elements. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to it. Here are a few solutions for EVERYONE to consider in an employment context:

  • Show kindness by voluntarily doing things that will help your colleagues without expecting anything in return. 
  • Calling a colleague to check in and discuss non-work-related topics to strengthen the bond with them.
  • Sincerely thanking someone who has taken the time to do something that will have a positive impact on you. 
  • Take time to appreciate the present moment, take a step back to reflect or take a quiet 5 minutes to think. 
  • Encourage physical activity by taking breaks to walk, play sports or even just work while standing.

Measure the State of the Situation (Regularly) 

Taking the pulse of the people in your organization is extremely important. It helps to understand what they are thinking and feeling. In the context of a pandemic, the information obtained allows for a better understanding of the stressors, sources of concern and fears, and to find solutions and improvements. Whether it is through an annual survey, flash surveys, work meetings, or simple informal discussions, this information gathering is essential for making a diagnosis. It’s like taking vital signs at a doctor’s appointment; at every appointment, we take them. Why do we do this? It is the basis of the proper functioning of the human body. Given that people are at the center of organizations, it is more than important to check how they are doing, right?

I will personally commit to continuing to put these approaches and practices into action in order to make my work environment a place where mental health is not only destigmatized, but also VALUED. Do you want to be part of the solution?

Nicolas Roy, CRHA, ADM.A., M.SC.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at EPSI


[1] Mental Health Index (November 2021). https://lifeworks.com/en/mental-health-index

[2] Mental Health Index (November 2021). https://lifeworks.com/en/mental-health-index

[3] Survey on Covid-19 and Mental Health (September 2021). https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210927/dq210927a-eng.htm 

[4] Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/mental-illness-canada-infographic.html