Beyond Basic Training: HR’s role in managing mental health

September 10 is Suicide Prevention Day. HR is responsible for employee well-being, but what do you do when the problem goes beyond your training or experience?

Beyond Basic Training: HR’s role in managing mental health
an style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">It remains a vital HR function to monitor and maintain staff morale and mental health. As people become more aware of mental illness, it becomes easier to catch early and accommodate around, rather than forcing individuals to hide their condition until it becomes unmanageable.

In Canada, suicide accounts for 16% of deaths for those aged 25- 44, and one in five people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, there is a best-practice preventative framework employers and HR can follow:

1. Watch for warning signs
Any kind of behavioural change could be a signal that something is wrong, but specific changes such as increased absenteeism, loss of interest and lack of participation at work, and expressions of strange or destructive ideas shouldn’t be overlooked.

2. Talk to them privately
It doesn’t need to be a big intervention – just ask how they’re doing and ask whether they need help. Because of the stigma attached to mental illness, some people want to hide their illness. Let them know they’re not going to be judged or gossiped about.

3. Find resources
Unless you have a psychology degree you probably can’t help by yourself, but you can point them towards resources which may be able to assist them.  If they have a family doctor they should start with an appointment there, and can be referred to the right next support person. Mental Health Works has a range of online resources for employers and employees.

4. Offer assistance and accommodation
While you are legally obligated to accommodate for mental illness, few HR people are motivated by statute. Studies have proven accommodating early, and going beyond your obligations leads to more engaged staff across the board. By showing care and compassion to one staff member, you give all your employees a reason to be proud they work for you.

Suicide prevention crisis centres
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Works
Mental Health First Aid

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