A recent report published by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has found that five million young professionals in Canada are in need of mental health support. This unchecked stress is believed to be contributing to a national mental health epidemic, which is costing Canada billions of dollars annually.
As a result, businesses and organizations are being advised to invest more into employee wellbeing, to prioritize mental wellbeing as a key performance driver and proactively enable their employees to thrive.
Across the board, young people are struggling with a variety of mental health struggles, with many professionals and experts finding new ways to help tackle and support those suffering. As part of the provincial mental health and addiction response package of over $147 million, the Ontario government has put plans in place to expand virtual mental health and addictions support, like internet based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to make support more accessible. Another example is the gambling world, where some of the best online casinos in Canada have been experimenting with ways to tackle problem gambling, with AI technology being a key player in helping to track and flag up those who may be at risk.
There does seem to be a push to put more support in place for these young people, however, discussing mental health still remains a bit of a taboo subject, with the study finding that young people do not necessarily feel confident to speak out about issues they are facing. And while organizations are reported as caring about the health and wellbeing of their employees, they are being accused of not reacting quickly enough to recognize the extent of the crisis, and do not appear to have an overarching strategy.
This latest study found that 25% of all Canadians reported having symptoms of a mental health disorder in 2021, 5 million reported that they needed mental health support and more than a third (35%) claimed to be burnt out. The conclusion is that this mental health crisis is disproportionately impacting young people, with about 40% of Canadian workers between the ages of 18-24 at a mental health “breaking point”. According to the study, by the time these young adults reach the age of 40, half of them will have experienced some form of mental illness.
With a lack of strategy, a lack of support and the stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health, a workplace culture has been created where both the young adults and their managers feel discouraged from presenting these issues. So, what can businesses and organizations do to mitigate this mental health crisis and better support their employees?
The study clearly shows that the workplace environment is in need of fixing, so businesses are being encouraged to step up and invest in mental health and wellbeing. But what would they get back? A virtuous cycle, which could deliver massive returns for Canadians, Canadian businesses and the economy as a whole. Healthier workplaces attract key talent, engaged workers are significantly more productive and greater productivity leads to greater national prosperity.
With workplace wellbeing being shown to drive growth, businesses now need to change their practices and cultures to fully unleash this growth and the benefits it will bring for them and the country’s economy. Businesses are being encouraged to look at mental health and wellbeing as a strategic business priority, looking at it in the same way they would look at any other business opportunity – set a vision, define objectives and create a business plan.
Developing generative leaders is one strategy to help this cause, which can be achieved through teaching and coaching managers to be effective communicators who can provide constructive feedback and ensure that all workers feel seen, heard and valued. Resilience training for all employees, especially those in the early stages of their careers, can be a powerful tool, helping workers learn strategies to cope with struggles and challenges they may face within the position. Providing structured support through making crucial interventions easily discoverable and available is also essential, like having external career counselors to lean on.
Finally, support needs to be in place to help managers and HR understand how to communicate with employees and navigate any grey areas, and how they, themselves, can access external resources to enable this to be as productive as possible.
With the generations that we are hiring today going to become the leaders of tomorrow, now is the time to act. And while changing workplace cultures cannot happen overnight, the journey needs to begin straight away.