New mental health workplace standard from the Mental Health Commission of Canada


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Mental health in the workplace is a cause for concern for many plan sponsors. In Canada, the economic cost of mental disorders is estimated at $51 billion per year. Almost $20 billion of this comes from workplace losses.1

To help employers tackle this issue, a new National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace has been released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

The creation of the Standard was championed by The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) in collaboration with the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ) and CSA Standards.

How does it apply to you?

You may have heard of the new voluntary Standard, but may not be sure how it applies to you. It provides guidelines and tools that large and small employers alike can use to create a workplace that promotes good mental health – regardless of resources or budget. It will provide a methodology that will lead to measureable improvements in psychological health and safety for Canadian employees in their workplaces, as well as a continual improvement process that aligns closely with similar processes in related standards.

As Dr.Ian Arnold2, Chair of the MHCC Workforce Advisory Committee from 2008 to February 2012 highlights, a key to success is in the good planning that the Standard describes.

“I believe it is essential that the organization’s senior leadership agree that there is a solid business case for improving the psychological health and safety culture in their workplace and commit to that improvement. A key facet to both building the business case and to moving forward is the planning process that is well detailed in the new Standard.

Good planning involves using aggregated data that may be readily available (organizational surveys; human resources and occupational health statistics, benefits plans data from the benefits provider -such as disability usage, drug usage, other benefit usage patterns, etc.) as well as data available from an assessment of workplace psychological health and safety hazards.

The results of good planning mean that the organization will understand where they are doing the right thing and where there are opportunities for improvement. Good planning means that workplace needs will be properly identified and resources deployed in the most cost beneficial manner to provide employees and the organization with the best chance of overall improvement on the organizations psychological health and safety climate.”

Sun Life can help

Tackling mental health issues in the workplace is not a quick and easy fix. However, building a mental health culture doesn’t mean changing the DNA of your organization. Instead, it’s a process that enhances your existing organizational culture by bringing an understanding of mental health issues into the workplace. As a result, your employees can have better mental health support at work – with better outcomes for all concerned.

We’ve been following the development of this Standard, and preparing to support you now that it is in effect. Our Organizational Health Consultants are certified by the Mental Health Commission of Canada for Mental Health First Aid Training. They can help plan sponsors navigate the standards and develop plans to meet the standards. They also offer training to help affected individuals return to work.


Contact your Sun Life Financial group benefits representative.


1.Mental Health Commission of Canada 2012

2. Dr Ian Arnold 2012