Unique workplaces (first responders & healthcare providers)
Healing the healthcare sector: The way forward
In 2015, in Charlottetown, PEI, MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley delivered a bold and inspiring address at the National Health Leadership Conference (NHLC) that would help revolutionize how healthcare providers understand and manage their own mental wellness.
A year later, in June 2016, the MHCC returned to the Conference together with HealthCareCAN, to launch the national “By Health, For Health Collaborative.” This community of practice brings together over 20 healthcare organizations from across Canada. They are advancing workplace mental health in healthcare and supporting alignment with the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. These trailblazers are providing mentorship and sharing hands-on experience with health organizations beginning to address mental health at work.
The first of its kind in the world, the collaborative is responding to the overwhelming call for support and resources by affording access to subject matter experts and face-to-face contact with peers implementing workplace mental health initiatives.
Healthcare workers are 1.5 times more likely to be off work due to illness or disability than people in other sectors.
Fighting stigma in healthcare
After having identified healthcare providers as a target group for crucial anti-stigma initiatives, in 2009 the MHCC began an evaluation of 25 programs specifically designed for this demographic.
It revealed some surprising learning needs among healthcare professionals, including a pessimistic view about recovery. As a result of the cross-Canada call for partners in 2009, the MHCC identified a short workshop called Understanding Stigma that has proven to be extremely effective. In 2016-2017 we transformed the content into an online module making it more accessible to healthcare providers across the country.
Our research also points to another surprising learning need: healthcare professionals indicate they lack the skills to help patients with mental health problems or illnesses.
The MHCC identified a program created for British Columbia family physicians that improves these skills. With the support and goodwill of many partner organizations, the MHCC conducted a randomized control research trial (RCT) delivering the program in Nova Scotia, which concluded in 2016.
The resulting peer-reviewed literature shows patient outcomes are significantly ameliorated when their doctor has taken the program. Forty per cent of the physicians who took the program said they felt “very confident” with the quality of care they could now provide. Their newly acquired skills and treatment methods have resulted in the prescription of fewer antidepressants. We are now working to expand the reach of this training, and several other evidence-based anti-stigma programs. Since the completion of the RCT, Nova Scotia has agreed to deliver the program across the province.
“…There is a need for us as family physicians to provide more mental health care because the system is overloaded at times… [This training] exceeded my expectations by at least 500 per cent, and I feel so much more confident and able to help patients, which is why I did the training.” – Dr. Camen O’Neill, family physician
First responders are routinely exposed to traumatic events while carrying out their jobs – they also regularly interact with people in vulnerable situations, including those living with a mental health problem or illness.
Keeping our communities safe means ensuring first responders have the tools and resources on hand to maintain their own mental wellness. The MHCC has been working tirelessly to support first responder organizations as they implement overarching health and wellness strategies, while simultaneously striving to improve interactions with people living with a mental illness.
In 2017, the MHCC supported the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police on their annual conference for the third consecutive year. In 36 short months, the conference focus has shifted from improving interactions between police and people with lived experience to a more holistic understanding of mental health and wellness as it pertains to personnel.
The MHCC also recognizes that in addition to the specific needs of the police community, we must strive to advance the mental wellness needs of all first responders, given their diversity of experience.
In late 2015 and early 2016, we began working to adapt the Road to Mental Readiness to meet the needs of paramedics, corrections officers and firefighters. The program is designed to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and to promote mental health and resiliency in a workplace setting. The program includes a self-assessment tool and a set of evidence-based, cognitive behavioural therapy techniques that help people cope with stress and improve their resiliency.
As of March 31, 2017, more than 44,000 first responders across Canada have received this training.
A number of the MHCC’s additional tools and resources have proven useful to enhance mental health and wellness needs among first responders. These include the Guidelines for the Practice and Training of Peer Support, which have informed the development of organizational peer support programs for first responders, as well as Mental Health First Aid training, which has been delivered to more than 1,600 first responders. The MHCC’s webinar series dedicated to supporting the mental health of first responders, by showcasing effective strategies, tools and resources has attracted more than 1,000 viewers: 600 real time attendees from across Canada and 400 through archived footage.
Furthermore, the MHCC is one of seven partners assisting the Paramedic Association of Canada and the Canadian Standard Association to develop a psychological health and safety standard for paramedic personnel.
The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (Standard) is a voluntary set of guidelines, tools and resources focused on promoting employees’ psychological health due to workplace factors. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Quebec Division has implemented the Standard, and was a participant in the MHCC’s three-year Case Study Research Project.
“Joining forces with the MHCC has helped the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police advance a mental health agenda among police organizations across the country. Together we are combatting stigma, and creating crucial space for dialogue and understanding.” – Mario Harel, President, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police