Skip to main content
mental health week

This is the introduction to a three-part series for Mental Health week, May 7-13. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2018 winners of the award at

Register for the 2019 Employee Recommended Workplace Awards at

Sometimes we don’t need another program; we need a movement to make lasting change. Malcom Gladwell, in The Tipping Point, taught how small actions can create a social epidemic for good.

CivicAction, a Toronto-based non-profit that works with senior and emerging leaders to tackle tough urban challenges, engaged several partners that have picked mental health as one of their actions. This progressive non-profit has taken a page out of Mr. Gladwell’s book as it is facilitating social action by encouraging organization leaders to get into the conversation on improving mental health in the workplace, one small step at a time.

This movement, MindsMatter, is focusing on mental health – starting January 2017 to December 2019 – with the goal of making a positive impact on society. Led by a 40-member Champions Council, it developed a free, online assessment tool for employers. MindsMatter/SoutienBienÉtre is aligned with the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

So far, over 750 Canadian organizations have participated, providing an opportunity to positively impact 1.7 million employees.

Sevaun Palvetzian, chief executive officer of CivicAction, states, “For the first time, we see everyone talking about mental health – athletes, corporate leaders, politicians, teachers, students – the list goes on. The next big hurdle, however, is moving from good intentions to action. We see this reflected in our MindsMatter assessment results – where 73 per cent of businesses or organizations provide their employees with information on mental well-being and available supports – but only 28 per cent have a mental well-being strategy or plan in place, and only 45 per cent have taken measures to reduce work-related stress. The next level of impact is having an authentic commitment – and an accompanying game plan – to doing more for the mental health of our employees.”

Ms. Palvetzian has outlined the following success goals for MindsMatter:

· A target of seeing 1,500 businesses or organizations take the MindsMatter assessment and at least one of the recommended actions by 2019.

· A vision where Canadian workplaces are put on the global map for supporting people’s mental well-being.

· For Canada to be the place for global employers to invest and set up shop, and where residents can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, realize their potential, and contribute to their community.

In support of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week, May 7-13, Ms. Palvetzian and I have co-authored a three-part series that will introduce each of the proposed areas for action. Unique actions can be one simple step for leaders to support their employees to curb mental injuries and mental health issues.

The commission states on its website, “Mental health is about more than mental illness. It’s more than being happy all the time. It’s about feeling good about who you are, having balance in your life, and managing life’s highs and lows. Everyone deserves to feel well, whatever their mental health experience. And we all need a support system to lean on.”

Mental health issues can have a negative impact on employees in the workplace. In a survey completed by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis and Morneau Shepell for CivicAction, eighty-two per cent of employees who report mental health issues say it directly impacts their work performance.

We’re learning a similar lesson on the power of taking small actions. Participants in the Employee Recommended Workplace Award, created by The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell, are learning that it’s not about the award as much it is about learning what employers and employees can do collectively to promote mental health. In the end, every employee owns their mental health. However, employers can facilitate and support employees’ mental health through the right policies, procedures and programs.

One of the biggest barriers for people accessing mental health support is the lack of awareness that they’re at risk. The total health assessment used within the Employee Recommended Workplace Award provides every employee with their total health index that includes a mental health report, so that employees have information about how they are doing. Then each employer gets an aggregated report of their employees’ total health and information regarding which programs are having the right impact.

Employers can today take three minutes to complete CivicAction’s MindsMatter online assessment tool to foster these first or next steps.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

You can find all the stories supporting the Employee Recommended Workplace Award at: