Social Justice and Democracy

Canada’s unions call for mental health support for workers

May 4, 2020

Canada’s unions are marking Mental Health Week with a recognition of the considerable impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of workers and a call for governments and workplaces to provide access to support and take steps to prevent mental injuries at work.

The impact of COVID-19 on workplaces, communities and families across Canada is unprecedented. Many workers have lost their jobs or contracts, or have been recalled after layoffs. Other workers are on the front lines and putting their health and their families’ health at risk every day. Others are working remotely for the first time.

In the midst of all of this social distancing and the increased economic precarity felt throughout this crisis, workloads have now doubled or tripled for those caring for children, elders and persons with disabilities as schools, community centres and other planned daily activities cease to operate.

“Our lives have significantly changed as a result of this pandemic and this has already negatively impacted the mental health of many in workplaces across Canada,” explained Executive Vice-President Larry Rousseau. “It’s critical that workplaces are equipped with the resources and training necessary to provide accommodations and supports for mental health wellness of their workers.”

Even before the pandemic, mental illness accounted for about a third of all disability claims. With the added stressors of the current crisis, workers are feeling the negative impacts on their mental well-being even more than before.

Fighting for better mental health resources and supports can help to keep workers in their jobs and prevent mental illnesses from occurring in the first place. The Canadian Labour Congress offers a Mental Health at Work online portal. 

This online catalogue provides a series of resources, including how to bargain for better mental health supports in the workplace, geared towards workers and trade union activists who want to ensure their workplaces prioritize mental health outcomes for all.

“Mental Health Week is an opportunity for every workplace to recognize that better mental health care, an end to discrimination against people with mental illness and equitable work opportunities are human rights issues that must be prioritized.

“This week we want to say to workers who are struggling:  it’s okay to not be okay.  You are not alone.  Use the resources and get the help you need, and together we’ll get through this extraordinary challenge,” said Rousseau.

List of Useful Resources:

CLC Mental Health Resource Centre:
https://canadianlabour.ca/uncategorized/mental-health-resources/

Canadian Mental Health Association 
https://mentalhealthweek.ca/toolkit/

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: Free mental health e-courses
https://www.ccohs.ca/topics/wellness/mentalhealth/

National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace
https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/what-we-do/workplace/national-standard

Kids help phone
https://kidshelpphone.ca/

Distress Centres
https://ca.edubirdie.com/blog/worldwide-and-canadian-crisis-centres

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