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OPG making strides on mental health

 OPG making strides on mental health

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​In any given year, one in five Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.

Over the past three years, OPG has made strides to destigmatize mental health in the workplace and ensure its more than 9,300 employees have access to timely and effective treatment.

One in five Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.
One in five Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.

​To raise awareness of the issue, OPG trained more than 2,100 people leaders in a Mental Health First Aid Certification course. The course teaches how to spot the signs of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety and provide early help. The company has also introduced a Total Health Index, an online tool that allows employees to “check in” on their overall health, as well as Lifespeak, a web-based platform that gives employees and their families access to expert health and wellness advice.

In addition, OPG employees like Kim Loader and Tony Hall have spoken out publicly, and this has encouraged other employees to share their own struggles and seek help. Last year, Loader shared her journey with postpartum depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, while Hall shared his story about losing his son to suicide.

“Many people think they’re coping well, but what we’ve found is that they’re just on the cusp of breaking down,” said Tanya Hickey, Senior Manager Health and Safety Strategies at OPG. “As a company, we hope to make a difference in people’s lives by providing and encouraging access to get the help they need.”

The impact of OPG’s awareness campaign has been significant. Over the last two years, utilization of OPG’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provider has been the highest ever at 16.43 per cent in 2017 and 14.78 per cent in 2018. There has been a 21 per cent increase in counselling services offered by EFAP and a 75 per cent increase in the use of trauma support services. In addition, mental health related major medical absences have slightly increased, but the duration of these cases has decreased by 29 per cent.

This all suggests that employees are reaching out for help earlier and having greater success in recovery, Hickey said.
Stories like Kim Loader’s have gone a long way to destigmatizing mental illness for others in the company. The Senior Financial Analyst is now an advocate for mental health among her colleagues at OPG and outside the company.

“Talking about mental illness is important. One thing that is just as critical, if not more so, is listening and listening without judgement,” Loader said. “Knowing that it’s not the person, it’s the illness. It is one of the best ways to support someone dealing with mental illness.”