New workplace mental health program on its way

New workplace mental health program on its way The board of the Mental Health Association of Yukon thanks everyone who attended our annual dinner and general meeting on June 9. Our guest speaker, Michael Pietrus from the Mental Health Commission of Cana

The board of the Mental Health Association of Yukon thanks everyone who attended our annual dinner and general meeting on June 9.

Our guest speaker, Michael Pietrus from the Mental Health Commission of Canada, gave a presentation addressing the significant impact of stigma associated with mental illness. Two thirds of Canadians struggling with mental illness will not share their struggles even with their family doctor because of fear of being judged.

Earlier in the day Mr. Pietrus gave a presentation to front line health care workers concerning the stigma that exists within their profession. Front line workers are the first contact patients have when seeking help. A negative experience due to misconceptions about mental illness with front line workers only reinforces the stigma.

Mr. Pietrus addressed 100 students at Porter Creek Secondary School about the impact stigma has on addressing the mental health needs of youth.

Statistics show that 75 per cent of young people will not discuss their mental health problems. This is particularly alarming when 70 per cent of adults who report a mental illness say it began in their teenage years. Early intervention is a key to helping people address their mental health needs.

Mr. Pietrus also addressed the role the media plays in reporting stories concerning people with mental illness. He pointed out that 40 per cent of stories portray people with mental illness as being violent when in fact statistics show there is a much higher risk of people with mental illness being victims. The risk of anyone being harmed by someone with a mental illness is in fact

very low.

Stigma in the workplace can prevent people from seeking support due to fear of being shunned, limiting their career opportunities or even being fired. Most of our waking time is spent in the workplace and significant changes in corporate culture need to take place.

Our association is introducing a workplace program called ‘Mental Health Works’. This is a program of the CMHA-Ontario Division which provides workshops to help open the discussion of mental health in the workplace with staff and provides skills to assist supervisors in working with struggling employees.

The Mental Health Association of Yukon is committed to eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness.

Ray Wells

Chair, Mental Health Association of Yukon

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