Dr. Pelletier's page

News and commentary from our Director of Workplace Mental Health.

Meet Sun Life Director of Workplace Mental Health, Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier, PH.D., R.Psych

In November 2013, Sun Life welcomed Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier as Director of Workplace Mental Health for Group Benefits. With 15 years of clinical and research expertise, she will be helping us to strengthen the resources we have to help you understand mental health issues in the workplace and to help build more tools for creating a mentally healthy work environment.

*Canadian Mental Health Association

April 18, 2016

Le Rassemblement - when competitors, collaborators, and partners join together for workplace health

Last week, I once again had the chance to join the Montréal-based conference, Le Rassemblement pour la santé et le mieux-être en entreprise. This event is not to be missed in Québec. As one of the best organized events, it never misses bringing together a great combination of big names we know and those that we should. It combines academic, professional and industry voices in a rare way. My colleague Jennifer Elia and our research partner Dr. Michael Rouse presented on the preliminary results from the Sun Life-Ivey Canadian Wellness Return on Investment Study.I had the chance to interact with industry colleagues at the breakfast event, where I engaged in an inspiring conversation with Olympic medalist Sylvie Bernier. Sylvieis involved in health in a number of ways in Québec and who was also the emcee for the event. Congratulations on another edition of a great workplace health event!

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

April 14, 2016

Sun Life proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of this year’s National Conference on Peer Support

This year’s National Conference on Peer Support (NCPS) is being hosted in Toronto and I am proud that Sun Life continues to provide its strong support. It is a three day, sold out conference, April 27-29 2016. I will have the honour of introducing two of the keynote speakers, Silken Laumann and Pat Capponi, both inspiring individuals that I can’t wait to personally meet and listen to speak.

I will also be moderating a panel discussion on day 2 involving clients of Sun Life who have implemented a workplace peer support program. The panel will feature three managers and three peer supporters who will discuss how and why they contribute, and will share their views on the power of workplace peer support. Since the first Peer Support conference in 2014 in Halifax, a lot has happened. I very much look forward to continuing the conversation on this key component to a psychologically healthy workplace. Hopefully I will see you there!

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

March 15, 2016

International Women’s Day, Montréal

One of the great opportunities I have is to be part of conversations that bring all elements of health together, and this one is a great example. I was invited to join this Montréal-based event on Women's International Day focused on Women and Success, a topic that is close to my heart. The event was organized by Rose-Marie Charest, who presided the Ordre des psychologues du Québec for 16 years.

The topics ranged from money, power, stress to managing our health in an integrated way; the last of which topic was mine. I covered key areas tied to resilience, including ways to modify our thinking as it relates to financial health. Seeing the Twitter activity prior to and after the event, I can tell you that we had a varied audience of women committed to success – knowing that this definition differs for each person. What is true for everyone is that the more we look at health in an integrated way, with physical, psychological and financial health together, the better.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

February 8, 2016

Free webinars on workplace mental health

In my role as Assistant Vice President of Workplace Mental Health at Sun Life, I have the pleasure of working and collaborating with many stakeholders in the field of mental health. One organization I work closely with is the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). The MHCC has a number of free resources that can support workplace mental health initiatives, one of which is a free monthly webinar.

These webinars touch on a variety of workplace wellness topics including:

  • Techniques for integrating psychological health and safety at work,
  • Promising practices for, and challenges to, advancing workplace mental health, and
  • How to access tools, resources, and strategies for a range of organizations.

I would like to encourage you to take advantage of this great resource by joining the 60-minute webinars on the last Wednesday of every month at noon ET. For upcoming webinars and to access previous presentations, please visit the MHCC Workplace Webinar website. Information from these webinars can help you to build a mentally healthy workplace environment in your organization, regardless of your role and perspective within your organisation.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

February 4, 2016

Healthy lifestyles webinar through Groupe entreprises en santé

I am excited to be hosting a webinar for Groupe entreprises en santé about healthy lifestyles. The session is in French, and is titled “De la théorie à la pratique : établir le lien essentiel entre un mode de vie sain et la santé mentale.”

In this session I will be discussing the often overlooked benefits of lifestyle changes to prevent, where possible, some of the mental health challenges. I’m going to shed some light on the important connection between lifestyle factors and mental health and talk about five key lifestyle changes that can improve mental health outcomes and the ways in which the two are connected.

This webinar is taking place on February 11, 2016 at noon EST. It is free to members of Groupe entreprises en santé; otherwise it is $25 (plus taxes) to participate. Visit their website to register for this engaging session.

Please note that this webinar will be offered in French only.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

December 8, 2015

Benefits Canada Mental Health Summit series another success

This year’s Benefits Canada Mental Health Summit series was once again excellent. With talks in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver covering workplace mental health topics from depression to personality disorders - including my presentation on the mental health of millennials conversations at breaks and during the presentations were very rich. If you’d like to see the presentation I did on behalf of Sun Life, follow this link: Support the mental health of millennials in the workplace – even if just for the colorful and creative slides contributed by the Sun Life marketing and design team, I would say it is worth looking at!

In a nut shell, the message addressed how employers can understand, appreciate, and leverage the millennial generation’s characteristics and strengths, and foster a workplace that collaborates and makes multi-generational connections. For concrete recommendations, scroll to slides 16, 17, 20 and 25. Employers have a lot to consider and need to understand the mentality of this generation in order to provide the optimal environment in which this set of employees can thrive.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

December 4, 2015

Progressing towards more psychological health in the workplace

One of the significant things that has happened to workplace mental health over the past few years, is that it has moved from the hands of professionals prescribing best practices to an industry-owned commitment. A clear sign of progress, workplace mental health has definitively become a movement that has received a healthy push from the Mental Health Commission of Canada. One of the key players in the benefits and pension industry in Canada is Benefits Canada, and one of the ways they contribute to the movement is via Workplace Benefits Awards.

The Benefits Canada Workplace Benefits Awards recognize both individuals and companies who are actively making an effort to make the workplace environment the best it can be for its employees. In October, they recognized a number of finalists in a number of categories, with organizations like PepsiCo Canada, Bruce Telecom, IWK Health Centre, Bell Canada, and Staples Canada Inc. for their focus on absence management, workplace wellness, and mental health.

I also had the honour of receiving an award – the Industry Leadership Award – which recognizes a leading individual who is demonstrably active and engaged in shaping the future direction of the benefits and/or pension industry. What a meaningful recognition - I am very proud of being part of Sun Life and look forward to all that we will accomplish together!

For a full list of all 2015 winners and finalists, visit the Benefits Canada website.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

November 27, 2015

NAV CANADA receives an industry award for their work in mental health

I am thrilled to share the news that NAV CANADA recently received the Chairman’s Citation of Merit Award from the Washington D.C. based Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) for the company’s mental health peer-support program, Light the Way. NAV CANADA implemented their program in 2012 and has seen benefits (and growth) just two years later. One of the most significant aspects of this award is that it is received from an international body, the Air Traffic Control Association. We are now deep into international-level workplace mental health, and NAV CANADA is leading the way. Well done NAV CANADA!

NAV CANADA is Canada’s private sector civil air navigation services provider. With operations from coast to coast to coast, NAV CANADA provides air traffic control, flight information, weather briefings, aeronautical information services, airport advisory services and electronic aids to navigation. Their Light the Way program offers peer-support to employees with personal or family mental health issues. This award adds to their accolades for achievement as a company in healthy workplaces and makes NAV CANADA a great example for other companies to follow.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

May 1, 2015

Mental Health Week in Canada

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week encourages Canadians to understand, discuss and take action on mental health. In my work with employers and individuals, I continue to see the critical need for (and immense benefits from) information and education to support personal and collective mental health.

According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians will suffer from a mental health issue, and any of us has the potential to be that person. It’s therefore incredibly important that we continue to grow our mental health literacy so we can break down stigma, act to maintain good psychological health and ensure that if we or others around us are suffering, we get the help and support that’s needed.

In most systems, small changes can amount to big differences; my hope is that small shifts in our collective awareness, understanding and actions will lead to a seismic shift in how we approach and deal with mental health issues in our homes, communities and country.

Whether you are looking at it from a personal or an employer perspective (or both), I encourage you to take some time during the week of May 4-10 to deepen your understanding of mental health issues and take action to improve your mental health and the mental health of those around you.

Please see the following article published on BrighterLife.ca, where I share resources and initiatives that may help improve mental health.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

March 26, 2015

Follow-up on February’s Bottom Line Conference

A few weeks ago, I told you about the 2015 National Bottom Line Conference, which I had the honour to chair. The staff and the steering committee for this year’s conference were ready to take the next step and be bold: we asked a group of professional singers to do a musical inspired by the 13 factors of the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. The response of our record 400 participants was beyond positive, and we are continuing to get comments about this. As promised, here’s the video of this high-energy performance!

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

February 27, 2015

National Bottom Line Conference

I had the pleasure of serving as Chair of the National Bottom Line Conference Steering Committee for the 2015 edition, which took place February 24-25 in Vancouver. This year’s theme, In the Eye of the Storm: Lessons from the Front Line, allowed us to expand on the lessons we can learn from front line workers in reference to workplace mental health. Our program included notable speakers such as Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire and (Retired) Lieutenant Colonel Stéphane Grenier.

What a successful year: the conference and workshops were sold out prior to the registration deadline, and a record audience of over 350 delegates from across Canada joined us, making the 2015 conference the single biggest event in Bottom Line`s 12-year history! It was also wonderful to see Sun Life client NAV Canada win the C.M. Hinks award for supporting the issue of workplace mental health (to avoid conflict of interest, some members of the steering committee, including myself, were not part of the selection committee for this award).

Finally, we were treated to a beautiful creative musical performance from Enhancement Unlimited, inspired by the National Standard`s 13 factors. If you ever have the chance to see such a performance live, it is well worth it! I will post a link when it becomes available.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

October 6, 2014

Speaking out to break the stigma – Ontario Bar Association President

Sometimes it’s nice to know that you’re not the only one. It’s even nicer to know that you’re just one of many. That’s what Orlando Da Silva, the incoming president of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA), says is what drove him to talk about his struggle with mental illness in a recently published article in the Law Times.

By sharing his story about dealing with depression, Da Silva hopes lawyers going through similar issues will “give him a call.” I think it is a significant step that Da Silva has made in opening up and encouraging others to open up about mental illness. The fact that he is a prominent lawyer and president of the OBA only serves to illustrate that mental illness can affect any of us, regardless of how focused or business-like we may be.

This article builds with the story of another colleague of Da Silva’s, the next Canadian Bar Association president, Michele Hollins who also opened up about her own depression in hopes that it would allow “people to share their own experiences more openly, without the judgment.”

I’ve seen that even the simple act of reading or hearing about another’s story can help us to create our own, or even just to recognize that what may happen to us or people around us now or in the future might be happening to others and that there is indeed help out there for it. These leaders bringing visibility to mental health is something that I’d like to see in more workplaces. With proper support, at work and outside of work, we can help to break the stigma around mental health. This allows us to start to take even more healthy preventive steps to protect employees where possible, and early treatment steps when we are impacted so we can return to health.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

August 5, 2014

Ride Don’t Hide

Earlier in May, I wrote about an inspiring event that Sun Life sponsors – Ride Don’t Hide, hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Ontario participants rode their bikes on June 22, 2014 in support of raising awareness about mental health and Sun Life was proud to be the Provincial Presenting Sponsor.

Since then, my colleague, Jennifer Elia, Assistant Vice-President of Health and Wellness at Sun Life, and Mel Thompson, one of the initial organizers of the Ride Don’t Hide events, were interviewed by Daytime, York Region, on Rogers TV. In a short (eight minute) engaging segment, they spoke about Sun Life’s commitment to mental health in the workplace, how both have personal connections in their family with mental illness and how Ride Don’t Hide helps communities.

You can click here to watch the interview.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

June 17, 2014

Visited Toronto for the Workplace Wellness and Mental Health

On June 10-11, 2014, I was in Toronto for the Workplace Wellness and Mental Health conference. Hosted by the Conference Board of Canada and sponsored by Sun Life, this event was about helping plan sponsors to start a wellness initiative or, if they had one already, help them benchmark and improve their program’s performance.

What comes before initiatives, actions, and behaviours are our perspectives, our thoughts – in the case of workplace mental health, our perceptions on psychological health influence our actions and reactions, whether we’re an employer or an employee. Being psychologically healthy and knowledgeable about it is an important effort to make in your personal life, and when employers make the effort to help you stay healthy at work too, it goes a long way to contributing to your overall mental wellbeing. The numbers, both those measuring health and those measuring the bottom line, support this.

My presentation at the conference focused on “Getting Plan Members Back to Health and Work.” Using my experience as a psychologist who works closely with individuals facing mental health issues, I was able to share perspectives on these issues from all sides including an employee’s, their family, the employer's, the insurer, and those of the health professionals. I got to discuss the use of how a "360 degree" perspective can be instrumental in helping employers identify and implement components of a more successful return-to-work plan for their employees.

Thank you to the Conference Board of Canada for inviting Sun Life to participate in the conversation, and to the conference attendees for their contributions to Canadians’ workplace wellness and psychological health!

Marie-Hélène Pelletier


May 29, 2014

Sun Life supports Ride Don’t Hide

Ride Don’t Hide is a community bike ride hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) that raises awareness and support for family mental health. This year it has spread to 19 communities across Canada and I’m so happy to be able to say that Sun Life Financial Canada is the Provincial Presenting Sponsor for Ontario.

This year’s Ontario rides are taking place on June 22, 2014. What makes this event even more important is not just the fact that it raises awareness about mental health, it’s that Sun Life had the chance to work with one of the ride’s initial organizers, Mel Thompson. You might find his name familiar if you’ve already visited our ‘My Stories’ – Videos page.

Mel Thompson and his family have been raising awareness through this ride and through publicly speaking about their experience with mental illness in their family. The interviews that they recorded with Sun Life are very powerful. It’s their dedication to breaking down the stigma around talking about mental health that makes me very proud that we’ve had the chance to work with them and that we’re sponsoring this great event.

I was recently interviewed by the CMHA about Ride Don’t Hide – you can read the article here. For more information about Ride Don’t Hide or to sign-up or donate, visit ridedonthide.com.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier


May 21, 2014

The Canadian Mental Health Association Bottom Line Conference 2014

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is one of the oldest voluntary associations in Canada and I am proud that Sun Life sponsored their national 2014 Bottom Line Conference in Vancouver, a national conference that has a focus on workplace mental health. I had the opportunity to moderate a panel on Mental Disorders Legislations/Workplace Bullying and Harassment Policies, and to facilitate the Living Life to the Full exercise at the conference, basically introducing cognitive-behavioural strategies to everyone.

The big question of the event was “Why is workplace mental health important to you?” It’s an important question that I think more employers need to ask themselves. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and it can have a profound effect not only on the individual who is suffering, but also on those around them. Sun Life has worked with a family and individuals, some in the public eye, to create videos of them sharing how mental illness has affected them. Click here to view the videos.

I’m glad to get the chance to contribute to conversations at industry events like the Bottom Line Conference because raising awareness about mental health is something that we all have a role in. I look forward to being back next year!

Marie-Hélène Pelletier


May 5, 2014

It’s mental health week: May 5 – 11, 2014

Canada recognizes National Mental Health Week this week and encourages everyone to learn even more, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health. Good psychological health is as important as good physical health and, like staying physically fit, staying psychologically fit requires a little bit of effort every day. Things as simple as taking time for an activity you enjoy, connecting with others just for the social aspect as opposed to just rushing from one task to the next, or getting a good night’s rest can contribute to a healthy mind.

While mental health week is a great chance to become more informed on the topics surrounding mental illness and mental wellbeing, this is also a good time to reach out to others, share experiences, and learn how to talk about these topics casually and comfortably. We have prepared a series of videos where some high-profile interviewees shake off the stigma and share their stories about how mental illness has touched their lives.

Feel free to share this link to the videos with your plan members so they can hear inspiring stories of living with, and overcoming mental health issues from former NHL player Stéphane Richer and his wife Leisa, sports broadcaster Michael Landsberg and mental health advocates, the Thompson family.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier


April 30, 2014

Breaking ground on an important area of mental health – Peer Support

This week I am in Halifax, Nova Scotia, attending and presenting at the 2014 National Conference on Peer Support. The event is hosted by PSACC - Peer Support Accreditation and Certification (Canada) – and sponsored by Sun Life Financial. I have the distinct honour of providing the introductions for the opening and closing keynote speakers at the conference: Dr. Patricia Deegan, Ph.D., a very successful psychology professor at Dartmouth and at Boston College who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager, and Senator Roméo Dallaire.

I am extremely proud that Sun Life is the sponsor of this conference for a couple of important reasons: first, and most notably, because peer support can be critical to the recovery of those experiencing mental illness, and recovery is the end goal for all of us involved in the mental health area. But the second reason isn’t about the effectiveness of peer support - it’s about its visibility.

Peer support programs too often lack visibility, understanding and funding. We want to see that change – and we want to be part of that change. One of the ways we can do that is through events like this – the first ever national conference on peer support.

This is an exciting conference with a great line up of speakers and presenters. I’m very excited to be here to help further the conversation on this important topic!

Marie-Hélène Pelletier


April 14, 2014

Manager training

As Director of Mental Health in the Workplace with Sun Life, it’s part of my job to keep a healthy workplace top of mind – this is easy for me since it is my passion.  One of the things we know from research that is very important to a healthy working environment is manager training in mental health.  

Organizations have heard about the benefits of such training for some time now, and many employers are implementing this training in their own companies. Having managers trained to promote a psychologically healthy workplace, identify possible mental health issues at an early stage and offer individuals the support they need as soon as possible can result in better psychological health in the workplace.  

The numbers show it: with one in five Canadians experiencing a mental health issue in his or her lifetime1, mental and behavioural health problems are considered a leading cause of both short- and long-term disability in Canada. According to a report by The Conference Board of Canada, lost labour related to the six most common mental health conditions costs employers $20.7 billion annually, and that loss is expected to rise to $29.1 billion by 2030. 

We recently wrote an article about manager training being a positive step towards a psychologically healthy workplace – it was published in the February 10, 2014 edition of HR Reporter. Please feel free to have a look.

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

1Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041.


March 21, 2014


Welcome to my very first post on sunlife.ca!  I’m excited for the chance to share some ideas about psychological health here with you. I joined Sun Life Financial as their Director of Workplace Mental Health in November 2013, coming from a clinical, management, and research background in psychology. I am accountable for the national implementation and support of Sun Life’s Mental Health Strategy.

My interest in psychological health in the workplace began early in my career when I worked in Northern Quebec. Since then, I’ve continued to find it fascinating, and have always liked the idea of bringing knowledge from research in psychology to as many people as possible to increase health and happiness. I love working collaboratively with employers and employees because it allows us to use what research and practice tells us works to bring the best results possible for everyone.

So thanks for stopping by! 

Marie-Hélène Pelletier

New Bright Paper
New Bright Paper
Mental Health in the Workplace
- a little training goes a long way

Mental health in the workplace
Mental health in the workplace




'My story' videos
'My story' videos