Mental Health Commission of Canada: Research and Action

Michel Rodrigue has been the CEO of the CSMC for a little over a year. (Photo: Courtesy)

MENTAL HEALTH OF THE EMPLOYEE. Initiator of the country’s first mental health strategy, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), has been carrying out its mission for more than 15 years. Between scientific research and fieldwork, the CSMC looks at best practices to implement for better collective mental health. Portrait.

“Our approach is to scientifically validate actions before they are adopted into society,” explains Michel Rodrigue, CEO of the CSMC for just over a year. After a career in communications, government relations and the public sector, he turned to the MHCC. A big jump for him. “I have seen the damage to mental health in families and friends after several deaths, mainly by suicide, in my area, he confides. I wish I could change things. †

Since his arrival at the head of the Commission, several research projects have been launched, in particular related to the pandemic. “The health crisis has led to an epidemic of anxiety, mental disorders and substance use,” sums up the CEO. If we want to recover economically and socially as a society, we need to look at mental health and support people. †

For example, anxiety and depression among young people have almost doubled in the past two years. The same goes for low-income families and single women with young children. Mental health problems occurring in the workplace as 35% of Canadian workers report being exhausted according to Mental Health Research Canada.

Raising awareness

Since its inception, the CSMC has intervened in the workplace, in particular to offer training courses such as L’esprit au travail (EAT). “It allows us to better understand mental disorders and also to evoke the stigma, the taboos behind it,” describes Michel Rodrigue.

“The success of our company depends on the employees who shape it, which is why we care about their well-being,” explains Renaud Dugas, spokesperson and head of press relations at Loto-Québec. Last December, the company decided to “improve” its health and wellness program. “It emphasizes prevention and offers concrete measures to promote the physical, mental and social health of our employees,” he explains.

To complete this offer, Loto-Québec has decided to call on the CSMC and its EAT training; nearly 600 state-owned company executives will follow. “This training allows us to destigmatize issues related to mental health, in addition to creating a common language,” says Renaud Dugas. Several managers indicated that they now feel better equipped, both personally and in their role with employees in different situations. †

Another CSMC training, titled Mental Health First Aid, is also “highly requested” by Quebec companies. “We find that it is the same as physical first aid. You have to understand the situation, stabilize the situation, know where to look for help and offer support until the specialists intervene,” summarizes Michel Rodrigue.

New tools

In April, the MHCC launched a brand new tool on its website: the Manager’s Toolkit, with the aim of “helping employers create a safe and supportive work environment for everyone’s mental health. This is “a series of practical and practical documents, based on scientific research and accessible to everyone,” explains the CEO.

There are five sections dealing with conflict resolution, new hire welcome and performance issues. There is also a section on “managers protecting their own mental health”, which Michel Rodrigue says is “essential”. “It’s like an airplane: before you put the oxygen mask on someone else, you have to put yourself on first,” he illustrates. If you want to support someone at work who has a mental health problem or is going through a crisis, you first need to know how to take care of yourself. †

One of the MHCC’s other tools is called How to Recognize the Signs of Deteriorating Mental Health in Employees. It can be used in the workplace, but also with relatives. “It teaches us to ask the right questions, to recognize when someone is not feeling well and to go beyond the ‘I’m fine’ answer. †

By making all of this advice and training free online, the MHCC hopes to inspire as many people as possible to learn about mental health and take action for the common good.


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