Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

President and CEO, Morneau Shepell.

Anxiety has been around since we've been around – passed on through genetics and affected by our environment and ability to cope. It's a normal part of the human experience, felt by all of us at different times, such as during a job interview or before the birth of a child.

What isn't normal is the dramatic spike in people suffering from chronic anxiety. The numbers are staggering – 41 per cent of Canadians are at high risk for mental-health issues, according to a recent poll. Thirty-six per cent felt so stressed it affected their daily lives.

Story continues below advertisement

Read also: Why every organization should have a mental health strategy

It's clear our environment is a leading driver of this epidemic. In all aspects of our lives, stressors have crept in, making it harder to decompress and find balance.

At work, intense competition and disruptive innovation are forcing organizations to navigate complex terrain. And these pressures are increasingly felt by employees.

A recent Rand survey found that more than a quarter of U.S. workers have too little time to do their jobs. And work frequently spilled into personal lives, with nearly half the respondents indicating they work during free time.

In Canada, 58 per cent of employees said chronic stress negatively affected their productivity, while nearly half considered leaving their jobs, according to a 2015 Morneau Shepell survey. Millennials were twice as likely to take stress leave as other age groups.

Add to the equation the proliferation of contract work and growing concerns about automation, and the result is predictable – a highly stressed, burned-out work force.

What's more worrisome is the next generation. Anxiety is the most common mental-health diagnosis among students today. Dubbed "the most anxious generation," they'll be entering the work force when pressures are higher than ever before. Without appropriate support, I fear an impending powder keg.

Story continues below advertisement

We need to fundamentally rethink our approach.


The current workplace model is not sustainable. Employees are working longer and harder, but with inadequate support – a major reason behind skyrocketing absenteeism and disability rates.

I've written about why organizations need to launch workplace mental-health strategies. Only 39 per cent of Canadian employers have one. But let's take it a step further. Support for employee health should permeate all aspects of an HR strategy, from onboarding to scheduling to evaluation.

For instance, despite all the talk about telecommuting, few employees are given permission to work from home. In Canada, only 12 per cent of paid employees work from home on a regular basis. In the United States, 78 per cent report they are required to be present during business hours.

With today's technology, why are so many employees expected to commute?

Story continues below advertisement

The best organizations get it. They encourage employees to proactively use mental-health services, such as employee-assistance programs, while injecting flexibility into the workplace. When done right, the results are compelling – higher employee engagement, greater productivity, and lower absence and disability costs.


Canada should be the global mental health innovation hub – we have the ingredients:

  • World-class mental-health hospitals affiliated with renowned postsecondary institutions.
  • Growing research networks, such as the Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research.
  • Successful anti-stigma campaigns, from Bell’s national Let’s Talk Day to local initiatives, such as Ottawa’s Do It For Daron.

In the private sector, firms such as IBM Canada are doing leading-edge work in mental-health analytics. At Morneau Shepell, we've built the world's largest counselling network, amplified by sophisticated digital infrastructure.

We're at a point where technology and clinical resources can be seamlessly integrated to provide cost-effective, preventative solutions to millions of people.

Yet, we all work in silos. There is no mental-health system in Canada – and as a result, there are significant service gaps throughout the country.

Story continues below advertisement

Governments can change that. And I'm not talking about throwing more money at the problem. Instead, I urge them to use their convening power. I look to Health Canada, the Mental Health Commission and their provincial counterparts to bring stakeholders together to build a more co-ordinated system.

Let's create a forum to collaborate regularly, trade best practices and ensure services are being provided to Canadians in the most efficient and effective manner possible.


I'm a firm believer in two-way accountability. We all have to take ownership of our own mental health. Programs are only successful if we take advantage of them, seek help and personally commit to making healthy decisions.

We all have a role in ending the anxiety epidemic. I urge my fellow business and government leaders to pave the way. You have the capacity, resources and communication channels to make an immediate difference in the total health of Canadians. If we don't step up, the anxiety epidemic will persist and we will never reach our collective potential.

It's time to move forward, invest and share what works. It's time to lead.

Story continues below advertisement

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

‘power tends to take away our steering wheel. So while we are speeding down the highway we crash into things along the way’ Special to Globe and Mail Update

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies