SUMMARY: A 3-year national research study has been undertaken by the Mental Health Commission of Canada to determine how Canadian employers are using the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Results will help identify promising practices, formulate programs, and develop educational tools and processes to help more organizations adopt the Standard and to promote mentally healthy workplaces overall.

Join the conversation as we share questions and ideas from our participants and expert panel. Visit the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) website for more information about the Case Study Research Project.

Recognizing and responding to mental health problems or crises

November 2015

Mental Health First Aid is described as help that is provided to someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.

As part of Mental Health First Aid training, individuals learn about the signs and symptoms of mental health issues such as substance related disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, deliberate self-injury or eating disorders.

Protocols are taught on how to deal with situations such as suicidal behavior, overdoses, panic attacks, reactions to traumatic events and psychotic episodes. This may include how to approach someone in crisis and engage in a conversation that is helpful, or in the case where self-harm has occurred, applying some physical first aid procedures while always calling for professional assistance, and offering comfort, understanding and non-judgmental support. Self-care is also taught and emphasized.

Mental Health First Aid training in workplaces can help:

  • Improve mental health literacy
  • Reduce stigma
  • Ensure a more confident and proactive response to mental health crises
  • Improve conversation skills and create environments where people feel safer talking about mental illness.

Those trained are not expected to become experts or offer diagnosis, but can help to support more effective response to problems that may occur in the workplace. Providing assurance and information is key, as is encouraging people to get the help they need.

More information is available from the Mental Health Commission of Canada at Additional guidelines, courtesy of Mental Health First Aid, about how you can help someone who may be experiencing psychosis or seems to have lost touch with reality at work are available at

Additional Information

Leadership Response – A leader's response in time of distress can have an impact on the workplace and employees. Thoughtful action and preventive measures can help facilitate the best possible response while reducing stress for everyone involved.

How do workplaces protect psychological safety?

November 2015

The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace identifies psychological protection as a factor for workplaces to consider for helping to ensure the psychological safety of employees.

Psychological protection is really about providing support to employees so that they feel safe in doing their work every day. This means creating environments where employees are protected from threats such as violence, harassment, bullying or incivility.

Some steps organizations can take include:

  • Clearly outlining in codes of conduct and respectful workplace policies what is and isn’t acceptable and the consequences for making threats to the safety of others.
  • Letting employees know what to do when they see or experience threats to their safety. This can be psychological or physical.
  • Training leaders on how to spot and respond swiftly and effectively to workplace conflicts or issues that have the potential to escalate.
  • Building emotional intelligence in leaders and helping them understand how their leadership style can impact the psychological safety of employees. Free resources and activities are available for those who lead, manage or support employees.
  • Teaching staff what to watch for and how actions can impact others, even when there is no intention to cause harm. The article Workplace Bullying – Identifying and Changing a Bullying Culture provides an overview of the roles we can all play.
  • Supporting leaders and employees to create a culture of respect and support for one another. 

Often when issues are raised, employees are surprised to learn that others have perceived their behaviour as intentionally negative. This underlines the need for clear policies and processes that focus on what’s acceptable but also on how our day-to-day interactions can affect others. This can include everything from how work is assigned, to how to support a co-worker who is struggling, to how performance issues are managed, to the level of civility and respect within the organization.

Additional Information

Harassment and Bullying Prevention – Information to provide context for the prevention of workplace bullying and harassment, including how to respond to behaviours that are offensive or potentially harmful to others.

Violence Prevention – Approaches for understanding, preventing and addressing workplace violence to help ensure employee safety.

The role of EAP providers in psychological health and safety

November 2015

Employee Assistance Program or Employee and Family Assistance and Family Program (EAP/EFAP) providers have the opportunity to play a key role in supporting psychologically healthy and safe workplaces.

Claudine Ducharme, (En) Partner, National Health Consulting Servicesorneau Shepell, said that employers can consider the “5 R’s” (described below) for how the EAP/EFAP provider can support their journey toward psychological health and safety or implementation of the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. “This includes removing stigma, improving resilience, recognizing risk, supporting recovery and finally, facilitating return to work.”

  1. Remove stigma – Provide access to information and services to raise awareness related to psychological health and safety and mental illness.
  2. Improve resilience – Support the development of resilience and coping skills, which can be learned, to help equip leaders and employees to more effectively manage and respond to workplace stressors. The article, Coping with Workplace Stressors, reprinted courtesy of Moods Magazine, looks at the benefits of building resilience in the workplace.
  3. Recognize risk – Use data that’s available about EAP utilization rates to help the employer identify trends and risks. This also puts the provider in the position of being able to identify and assess the employer’s capacity and willingness to address concerns. 
  4. Support recovery – EAP/EFAP counsellors can provide coaching to HR professionals, managers, occupational health and safety staff and others on how to prepare to support individuals returning to work, as well as supporting implementation of a workplace psychological health and safety initiative. They can also assist managers in having successful discussions with employees and team members on effective return to work practices.
  5. Facilitate return to work ­– Ensure benefits such ascounselling, suitable for the demographics of the employee population, are available. In its research report The true picture of workplace absenteeism, Morneau Shepell expands on this point, stating: “Ensure that expert problem-solving resources are available to support the resolution of return to work barriers for employees on disability leave, as well as those with chronic health issues that impact work”. The development of accommodation strategies requires a structured and consistent process that fits the unique needs of each workplace.

François Legault, Principal at Consult-Action Inc, adds that the EAP/EFAP provider can also work closely with those responsible for supporting the employee’s return to work to help create an understanding of how to manage for success, but also, how to ensure their own needs as well as that of the organization are met.

“This can include supporting mediation and conflict resolution from a psychological health and safety perspective,” Legault said. “The EAP service provider can also be engaged to help the employers’ internal teams develop skills in areas such as psychological health and safety or wellness program implementation, analyzing data, as well as supporting psychological health and safety at all times but in particular during accommodation, return to work, performance management and conflict resolution.”

Sometimes the best approach is to bring together employer, employee, EAP/EFAP service provider and if appropriate union representatives to share ideas, expertise and solutions for providing the most effective support to those who may be struggling as well as to help create work environments that are focused on the psychological health and safety of all employees. 

Additional Information

Supporting Employee Success – Provides a process for the employer, employee and healthcare professional to use when an employee requires accommodation.  

Managing Return to Work – Is a module of the free video resource Managing Mental Health Matters that can help managers perform this role more effectively and become more aware of how an employee might respond. 

Employee Assistance Programs and Mental Health-Related Issues – Provides ideas to consider for maximizing your EAP's responsiveness to mental health-related issues.

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? – Organizations who may be considering acquiring EAP services for their employees can benefit from an understanding of the services provided.