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New mental health standard helps employers become catalysts for change

I save all my speeches, PowerPoint presentations, articles, magazine, newspaper, quotes, ideas, notes from conferences and book ideas. My cabinet and my brain are running on overload. There are surveys, data and research on the workplace, skill shortages, leadership (or lack thereof), stress and lack of work/life balance. We have been bombarded with studies and information.

Don't misunderstand. My passion is helping create workplaces that are great places for all people to work, to create, to innovate, to produce and feel fulfilled. We all want to be respected, to be supported when we need it.

As a leader I have always strived to be a role model for what I preach. Being human, I haven't always succeeded. But, I have always tried to learn from experience and people — and I still do.

In this sorting I found a note I had made after an encounter with an employee years ago. It occurred following a staff meeting we had just completed. She asked if she could walk with me and talk to me.

"Of course," I said. 

She said to me, "Maureen, I love hearing you. I love your passion and your vision. I really want to follow you. But, I can't see you. We are still on the journey of climbing the hill and you are over the hump."  

I asked her to talk to me some more. It was one of the most important discussions I ever had and I still remember it all these years later.

What does it have to do with my New Year’s resolution? Well, I think we have enough stuff, information and data. The public and media are now more aware than ever of the magnitude of the social, moral and economic issues regarding health, safety, mental health and wellness.

We know that issues of stress, toxic workplaces, bullying, harassment, depression and other types of mental illness are part of so many workplaces. We know that workers and the public are less than supportive of workplaces that tolerate or exasperate situations. I know there are many leaders who have been asking for help.


How do we help people climb the hill? What tools do they need to get to the top? What should leaders — including managers, supervisors and worker representatives — do to get beyond brochures and articles? How can we help them become catalysts for change?


On Tuesday, Jan. 16th, 2013, The National Standard for Psychologically Safe Workplaces was launched by the partners in the development: Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ). This was a landmark day.

While the standard is voluntary, it provides the needed framework or guide for organizations of all sizes and types. It has a record number of tools and supportive documents as annexes. It provides a systematic approach to building healthy places for people to work.

Go now to the Mental Health Commission's website and begin the journey. Use the standard to help you plan your climb to your next level. Your first step should be to sign-up for the free webinar hosted by the Mental Health Commission on Jan. 29.

Begin engaging leaders and teams in the dialogue on mental health, share this information in professional meetings.

This truly is a journey. Change will take time, courage and perseverance, but the rewards for your people, your community and your business will be palpable and measurable.

I am excited. This standard is a first in the world. Canada is now the model for other countries to emulate. Many countries around the world are looking to Canada, because the need is universal. We have talked about this for years as the third prong of a multi-pronged approach to safe and healthy workplaces.

In the mid-eighties we talked about the "environment of the workplace." We are in a new place, a new beginning as a result of the leadership, vision, work and perseverance of many people — the 'pioneering innovators.'

I first heard the term from Tim Sanders, author of Saving the World of Work. He was referring to "those business innovators who offer a value proposition that is not quite ready for prime time." I think this term belongs to policy developers as much as product and service providers.

I wouldn't begin to name names, but they come from all levels: from political life, business, workers, professional organizations, and people with lived experience. We owe these pioneers much. We can best reward them by taking the first step to become innovators ourselves.

Downloading the standard, and partaking in the webinar, is a great start.

Maureen Shaw

Maureen Shaw is the former president and CEO of the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (now amalgamated into the Workplace Safety and Prevention Services). She spent over 14 years as leader of the IAPA, transforming it from a traditional safety training organization to one that approaches workplaces as psychologically safe and healthy places for people and business to be prosperous. Maureen holds key positions in several national organizations, including the Mental Health Commission of Canada where she is a member of the advisory committee on workforce mental health.
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