Guarding Minds – Background

The background of Guarding Minds at Work includes the history dating back to before its launch in 2009, the contributing researchers and evidence that has supported continual improvement.

Share on.articles

Guarding Minds at Work1 (Guarding Minds) is a free and comprehensive set of resources designed to assist employers to assess risks and address and manage psychological health and safety at work.

Guarding Minds helps employers identify and measure employee experience with psychosocial factors and hazards at work. These factors and hazards are known to have a powerful impact on organizational success, the well-being of individual employees, and the organization’s financial bottom line.


Guarding Minds was created in response to an increasing demand for organizations to protect the psychological safety of employees. This demand came from:

  • Legal duty – Employers are required by law to protect the health and safety of employees.

  • Bottom line – Awareness that psychologically unsafe work activities and workplaces can have negative impacts on recruitment, retention and reputation.

  • Performance – Recognition that employee psychological well-being has a direct impact on productivity, performance, and organizational sustainability.

  • Well-being – World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.”2

Guarding Minds was commissioned in 2007 by The Canada Life Assurance Company and continues to be supported by Workplace Strategies for Mental Health (Workplace Strategies). Guarding Minds is an innovative resource and is foundational to the evolution of psychological health and safety in Canada. 

Since 2007 Guarding Minds has undergone a process of continual improvement. It is hosted by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) which is responsible for preserving the confidentiality of all data collected. 

Guarding Minds was originally developed by experienced research-practitioners from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was significantly updated in 2022-2023 by Dr. Heather Stuart from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.



Dr. Martin Shain developed a concept of assessing and addressing risks to mental health which would be embedded in the organization and design of work. Dr. Shain suggested the term “Guarding Minds” to emphasize the importance of protecting the mental health of employees at work within the legal framework of occupational health and safety. 


Workplace Strategies for Mental Health commissioned the creation of a practical, web-based employer resource, with the funding support of Canada Life . The developers were Dr. Joti Samra, Dr. Merv Gilbert, Dr. Martin Shain, and Dr. Dan Bilsker.


Guarding Minds was launched as a free publicly available resource for all organizations.


Guarding Minds was updated by Dr. Gilbert, Dr. Bilsker, Dr. Samra, and Dr. Shain to ensure it remained current with emerging research, practice and regulatory developments, including the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) z10033 The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the Standard).


A collaborative partnership was formed with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) to provide user support, website design, hosting, data collection, storage and technical services.


Guarding Minds was enhanced by Dr. Gilbert and Dr. Bilsker using more recent comparison statistics, along with a new look and improved functionality provided by CCOHS.


Guarding Minds was updated by Dr. Gilbert and Dr. Bilsker to ensure it remained current with emerging employer and organizational needs, research, practice and regulatory developments. Updates included changes to both the survey and resources. New benchmark data was collected in collaboration with Queen’s University and Workplace Safety and Prevention Services.


As part of over a decade of continual improvement, Guarding Minds was updated and validated by Dr. Heather Stuart from Queen’s University. Survey items were aligned with the International Standards Organization (ISO) 45003:20214, which is a guideline for psychological health and safety developed in collaboration with countries around the world. The original psychosocial factors as identified in the Canadian Standard have been maintained. Indicators related to inclusion, stress or trauma were added to the report. Even with these additions, the entire survey takes no more time to complete. For more information see Dr. Stuart's report.

Contributing researchers

Guarding Minds was created with support and input from a wide range of participants. In addition to the insight of occupational health researchers and practitioners, perspectives were obtained from small and large businesses, organized labour, and public sector and not-for-profit organizations. The majority of contributors were from across Canada, but select international experts also provided consultation. 

The main contributing researchers include: 

Dr. Joti Samra, R. Psych.

Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych. is a national thought leader on issues relating to psychological health, wellness and resilience. She is the CEO & Founder of MyWorkplaceHealth, a full-suite national workplace consulting firm, and the Psychological Health & Safety (PH&S) Clinic, a virtual counselling and resilience/leadership coaching practice.

Dr. Samra is a highly regarded expert in psychological health and safety (PH&S). Over the past two decades, she has been involved in numerous national initiatives that have contributed to policy change in Canada, and is a Founding & Ongoing Member of the CSA Technical Committee that developed the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace (CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ9700-803/2013). This Standard is the first of its kind in the world, and has shaped policy development for workplace PH&S at the international ISO level.

Dr. Samra is the lead Research Scientist who created Guarding Minds at Work: A Workplace Guide to Psychological Health & Safety, in which the psychosocial factor frame adopted by the Standard was developed. She is also the developer of the Psychologically Safe Leader, an assessment and action planning resource that aligns leaders’ skills with the requirements of the Standard. Dr. Samra and her team have extensive expertise in helping organizations implement initiatives related to workplace PH&S including implementation of the CSA Standard; providing leadership development, training & coaching services across a broad range of areas, including emotional intelligence, psychologically safe leadership and mental health awareness; and providing a breadth of services to enhance employee psychological health, wellness and resilience.

Dr. Samra has received a number of awards and accolades for her clinical and research work. She is proud to be the recipient of the Canadian Psychological Association’s New Researcher Award and the British Columbia Psychological Association’s Advancement of the Profession of Psychology Award. She is also the former President of the BC Psychological Association and past Chair of the BC Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards Committee.

Dr. Merv Gilbert, Ph.D.

Dr. Merv Gilbert has over thirty years experience providing psychological services in direct clinical and leadership roles at regional, provincial, and international levels. He has published and presented at a diverse array of forums on the importance of workplace psychological health and safety for individuals and organizations. Dr. Gilbert has served on a number of professional and non-profit organizational bodies, including the Steering Committee of the American Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Network. He has held academic appointments at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. He has collaborated on
research and development projects with colleagues in Canada, the United States, Portugal, Denmark and Australia.

Dr. Gilbert is a Director of Vancouver Psych Safety, a consulting partnership, providing planning, training, implementation and evaluation services that enable organizations to foster psychologically healthy employees and workplace climates. Dr. Gilbert is a primary participant in the development, evaluation and dissemination of resources for workplace psychological health and safety including the Mental Health Commission of Canada, WorkSafeBC and the Manufacturing and Safety Alliance of British Columbia.

Dr. Martin Shain, S.J.D.

Dr. Martin Shain is the principal and founder of the Neighbour@Work Centre, a consulting agency in workplace psychological safety and health. 

He is an adjunct lecturer at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.

In his role as an academic lawyer Martin wrote two policy papers that laid out the legal foundations and general specifications for the Canadian National Standard on

Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. 

His fifth book, “The Careful Workplace”, was published by Thomson Reuters in 2016.
Currently he is partnering with Workplace Safety and Prevention 

Dr. Dan Bilsker, PhD.

Dr. Dan Bilsker has worked for several decades in the public mental health system (as an emergency psychologist) and in a research unit focused on innovative ways to enhance the psychological health of the Canadian population. 

In recent years, Dr. Bilsker has primarily engaged in consultation to organizations seeking to improve psychological safety of their workforce and clinical practice of cognitive-behavioural therapy. He is a clinical assistant professor at the University of B.C. and an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University. 

Dr. Heather Stuart, PhD

Dr. Heather Stuart is a full professor in the Departments of Public Health Sciences, Psychiatry and the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s University. She holds the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-stigma Research Chair at Queen’s. Dr. Stuart is also the Senior Consultant to the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Opening Minds, Anti-stigma initiative and the past Chair of the World Psychiatric Association’s Stigma and Mental Health Scientific Section. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a recipient of the Order of Canada.


Workplace Strategies and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) collaborated to increase the use of Guarding Minds by raising awareness and promoting it as a leading organizational resource supporting PHS in the workplace.

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health (Workplace Strategies)

Workplace Strategies was established by Canada Life in 2007 as a public initiative to increase knowledge and awareness of PHS and improve the ability to respond to mental health issues at work. It provides free, practical strategies and tools for all employers and employees. Guarding Minds was commissioned and funded by Canada Life. 

Simon Fraser University

Guarding Minds was originally developed by experienced research-practitioners from the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA), the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Founded in 1965, SFU has become Canada's leading comprehensive university with vibrant campuses in British Columbia's largest municipalities — Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey — and deep roots in partner communities throughout the province and around the world.

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)

CCOHS is Canada's national resource for the advancement of workplace health and safety, and provides credible information, education and innovative solutions to create positive change in the lives of working people in Canada. CCOHS hosts, maintains and operates the Guarding Minds website, and also provides English and French technical support for users.

Queen’s University at Kingston

In 2022-2023 Dr. Heather Stuart from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada made significant revisions to Guarding Minds, leveraging the research data collected by Mental Health Research Canada. Established in 1841, Queen’s University is one of Canada’s leading research-intensive universities. It continues to be ranked among the best universities nationwide.  

Evidence for Guarding Minds

Guarding Minds has undergone revisions in 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2022 to ensure it remains relevant and useful for all employers and employees. The revisions reflect updates in policy, regulation, legislation, and scientific literature pertaining to workplace psychological health and safety as well as guidelines for survey development (Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, 2014; American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education). In addition, revisions have been made to improve the user experience and value to employers. 

For more information, see: 

Explore more information or begin using the survey tools.

1.  © Samra, J., Gilbert, M., Shain, M., Bilsker, D. 2009-2020, with amendments by Stuart, H. 2022. All rights reserved. Website development and data storage by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

Guarding Minds at Work was commissioned by Canada Life and additional resources are supported by Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

2. World Health Organization (2006). Constitution of the World Health Organization – Basic Documents, Forty-fifth edition, Supplement, October 2006.

3. Canadian Standards Association. (2013). Psychological health and safety in the workplace—prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation (CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013). Retrieved from

4. International Organization for Standardization. (2021). Occupational health and safety management — Psychological health and safety at work — Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks (ISO Standard No. 45003). Retrieved from

Contributors include.articlesDan BilskerDavid K. MacDonaldDr. Heather StuartDr. Joti SamraDr. Martin ShainMary Ann BayntonMerv GilbertPhilip PerczakSarah JennerSusan JakobsonWorkplace Strategies team 2022 to present

Related articles.articles

Article tags.articles

Choose an option to filter.articles


To add a comment.comments