Skip to main content

Why mental health matters at work

54% of Canadians report that their mental health had worsened since the pandemic started
February 23, 2023
By Ghalia Shamayleh

On days when an employee feels weighed down by the stressors of life, they will likely choose to cash in a sick day to recuperate while hiding behind the façade of a physical ailment.

In 2019, Canadian workers were 3 times less likely to consider revealing a mental health condition, such as depression, than a physical illness. What does this say about us as a society? Why do we undermine and stigmatize the suffering caused by mental illness, when in any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians reports having a mental health issue?

The COVID-19 pandemic was detrimental to mental health. In Canada, major depressive disorders more than doubled during the fall of 2020 compared with the years (2015-2019) predating COVID-19. In 2022, 54% of Canadians report that their mental health had worsened since the pandemic started.  However, given the physical constraints implemented by governments to contain the spread of COVID, seeking in-person therapy became impossible. As a result, the market for online therapy grew exponentially. Teletherapy, therapy from a distance, is offered both through digital platforms that connect individuals to mental healthcare experts or through access to artificial intelligence or meditation and psychotherapy-approved exercises.

Platforms that connect therapy seekers to professionals, offer tools such as:

  • symptom-oriented surveys that match users with therapists,
  • a calendar to schedule appointments, and
  • a video, audio, and/or text communication feature to facilitate conversations.

AI-led mental healthcare platforms allow users to communicate with the application that offers enlightenment about their own mental health and recommendations for symptom alleviation. Platforms that operate through meditation and psychotherapy strategies may provide guided breathing videos, soothing nature sounds, and sometimes games or exercises that apply therapy techniques to increase a user’s positive mental state.

Therapy delivery through platforms provides individuals with increased access through flexibility in scheduling, reduced costs, and more frequent exposure to a professional. Another advantage of teletherapy is the convenience and privacy of attending a session from home. With teletherapy, individuals can avoid facing the stigma attached to therapy. However, healthcare platforms are not without flaws related to data privacy and expert certification. Therefore, it is advisable to research all application options before choosing a secure, legitimate mental healthcare platform. In the long run, the government can resolve these limitations by regulating privatized therapy platforms.

Mental health issues impact people’s well-being and ability to thrive and contribute to their social and professional communities. Therefore, it is in companies’ best interest to recognize the impact of mental health issues that their employees may face, and the associated risk to their business. By recognizing mental health as an important component of employee well-being within operating policies, companies can signal that employees suffering from mental ailments are valued and included.

How can a company be an ally to employees with mental health challenges?

  • Acknowledge and normalize mental health issues as a justified reason to take days off
  • Develop informational workshops on the importance of mental health
    • Discuss both in-person and online resources for seeking help
    • Introduce the different types of mental healthcare platforms options available
  • Provide employees with a few work-from-home days to provide relief from social stressors while encouraging productivity
  • Include online mental healthcare coverage in employees’ health insurance

By acknowledging employees' mental health conditions and showing them compassion, respect, and support for their suffering, a company can develop an inclusive work environment and a caring professional community. The well-being of employees will result in a workforce that cares to contribute to and better themselves both within and outside your company.

The next time an employee asks for a day off for mental wellness, challenge yourself to treat them as you would someone who needs time to heal from a physical affliction.  

Ghalia Shamayleh, PhD Candidate (Marketing)

Ghalia Shamayleh is a PhD candidate in marketing and a Public Scholar at Concordia University and the John Molson School of Business.

Back to top Back to top

© Concordia University