Is your organization psychologically safe?

May 4 to 10 is national Mental Health Week, presented by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
The 64th annual Mental Health Week encourages Canadians to “Get Loud” — to be heard, raise awareness, reduce discrimination and stigma, show support and ultimately take action to improve mental health programs and services across Canada.

This year, CMHA is also focusing on the mental health and well-being of men and boys. Males are more likely than females to develop conditions like schizophrenia at a younger age, and they have a much higher incidence of death as a result of suicide.

“There is still reluctance among men to talk about their mental health. Societal expectations put pressure on men to be strong and successful and for boys to not express their emotions. As a result, self-care and stress management are seen as signs of weakness,” said Peter Coleridge, national CEO of CMHA. “Our societal expectations are causing stigma and shame, and this has to change.”

Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness — it’s a state of well-being. Given that most people spend about 60 per cent of their waking hours at work, protecting psychological health and safety in the workplace is a critical component to supporting employee well-being, on par with physical health and safety.

To coincide with Mental Health Week, the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace and Canadian Occupational Safety magazine invite organizations to submit their nominations by June 1 for the Psychological Safety Award as part of Canada’s Safest Employers Awards.

“Mental health is a growing concern in workplaces across the country and it is encouraging to see employers starting to focus on it as much as they focus on physical injuries,” said Amanda Silliker, editor of Canadian Occupational Safety. “Its important to recognize those employers, health and safety professionals and human resources professionals who are dedicated to improving their employees’ psychological well-being.”

A 2012 Ipsos Reid survey found that seven in 10 (71 per cent) of Canadian employees reported some degree of concern with psychological health and safety in their workplace, including 14 per cent who disagreed that their workplace is psychologically healthy and safe. Many of their employers may not have known how to identify or address psychological health and safety in the workplace.

In response, the national Psychological Safety Award, launched last year and sponsored by the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, was created to recognize an organization that is actively identifying and reducing or eliminating psychological hazards to employees in the workplace. These hazards can include bullying, harassment or chronic pressure, among other factors.

“No organization is going to be perfect, so with this award, we celebrate organizations that are pioneering efforts to protect their employees from psychological injury as part of their overall health and safety approach,” said Mary Ann Baynton, program director for the centre.

Baynton reminds employers that there are now ample resources in the public domain to help them foster psychological health and safety in the workplace, including those of the centre, available at no cost, at

Winners of the Psychological Safety Award will be announced at a gala in Toronto on Oct. 28. Details are available at