A new initiative at Carleton is giving employees an opportunity to learn more about mental health in the workplace, and how to better support themselves and their colleagues.
“Everyone in some sense can be touched by it (mental health) on campus,” says Rebecca Bowie, a member of Carleton’s Workplace Mental Health Advisory Committee who was influential in bringing the initiative to life.
“The idea of mental health training … was to bring awareness to the topic on campus and the stigma around mental health.”
In February, Carleton began offering three types of mental health training sessions for faculty and staff: general mental health awareness sessions, workplace resiliency sessions and a workplace mental health leadership certificate program for managers.
The sessions touch on general knowledge about mental health and how employees can create safe spaces to discuss mental well-being with each other.
The leadership certificate course trains managers to handle various mental health scenarios and provide support to employees who are struggling. It is the first of its kind in Canada and was developed by health experts at Queen’s University.
“When Healthy Workplace first came to be, it was more focused on nutrition and fitness and physical health,” says Healthy Workplace Co-ordinator Samantha Munro. “Now mental health has definitely become more of a focus.”
Carleton implemented an award-winning Student Mental Health Framework in 2009. Munro, who helped create Carleton’s Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy, says it was time to bring faculty and staff into the loop.
“We’ve heard feedback from faculty and staff that they want this kind of training,” she says. “They want further education around mental health and mental illness, and how they can help colleagues and co-workers who may be struggling.”
During a general mental health awareness session in mid-February, led by an expert from Morneau Shepell, participants discussed stigmas about workplace mental health.
Some worried about crossing professional boundaries by asking colleagues about their mental health. Others suggested that employees experiencing mental illness might not ask for help because they fear they will be judged.
“We often hear from managers that they just don’t know what to say or do in those situations because it’s such a foreign topic to them,” says Bowie.
“The more we talk about it, the more we are educated, the less stigma there will be around that topic.”
One participant at the session expressed hope that Carleton’s mental health training will do just that.
Ed Kane, associate vice-president (University Services) says the initiative is “a significant next step in our journey of ensuring the university is a healthy, safe and supportive place to work for all staff and faculty.”
Although a difficult subject to broach, Munro hopes the training sessions will help remove a cone of silence around the topic.
“This is something Carleton is really proud to be offering,” Munro says.
“We really hope to see that people start more of a dialogue around mental health and mental illness. And it’s something that we as an employer can support.”