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Ontario labour union launches 'mental injury' resource

By COS staff

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) has joined forces with several provincial labour unions and the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) to launch a Mental Injury Tool Kit on October 10, 2012, in recognition of World Mental Health Day.

This tool kit is part of a broader plan of action to educate workers so they can recognize and prevent psycho-social hazards in the workplace from causing mental injuries to themselves and their colleagues.

"Psycho-social hazards in the workplace, such as bullying, harassment, intimidation, unreasonable work demands and poor work organization all take their toll on the mental health of workers," said OFL president Sid Ryan. "Workplace stress and mental distress can carry huge costs for employers, insurers and health care agencies, but the biggest toll is taken on workers and their families. It is time we named this problem and took action to address it."

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in 20 employees are experiencing depression at any given time and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has priced these and other mental health disorders in Canada at roughly $51 billion per year. Meanwhile, research from Québec has shown that workplace absenteeism, which includes time off due to stress and burn-out, can add as much as 17 per cent to the labour costs of an organization.

These Canadian trends are only part of a seemingly worldwide issue. In Europe, mental distress has been identified as the cause of half of all lost work days. In the USA, lost time due to mental distress rose by 36 per cent between 1995 to 1998, at an annual cost of $150 billion to the American economy. Yet, Ontario has lagged behind Québec and many European countries in recognizing and preventing psycho-social hazards, the OFL claimed.

On October 10, the Mental Injury Tool Kit for Ontario Workers was launched at a day-long conference hosted at Cambrian College's eDome in Sudbury, Ont., with video-feeds to other locations.

Originally intended for Ontario audiences, the project attracted international interest and participants from across Canada, Europe, Australia and the United Arab Emirates joined the e-conference, the OFL said.

The tool kit brings together and builds on resources from Canada and around the world that focus on the prevention of psycho-social hazards in the workplace. It is available on the OHCOW website.

"Too many workers have suffered these mental injuries in silence for far too long," said Ryan. "The workplace health and safety advocates who put this tool kit together should be commended for putting the spotlight on an issue that many people find difficult to talk about."

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