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Fighting depression and stigma at city hall

By Andrew Dreschel
Published in Hamilton Spectator

Drugs to combat depression are the second most common type of medications prescribed to city of Hamilton employees and their family members.

And, when combined with prescriptions for other mental disorders, depression is the primary indication for 13 per cent of the city’s drug plan usage.

Those striking stats are part of an update on the city’s new workplace mental health strategy presented to councillors this week.

Coun. Aidan Johnson summed up the significance of the information thusly:

“On the one hand it’s sad that so many people need depression drugs; I guess the flip side is I’m relieved that our employees … are reaching out for help.”

[…]

The grim reality is mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and runaway stress are now firmly rooted as common features of working life.

According to a study last year by CivicAction, a non-partisan urban strategy organization, an estimated 1.5 million workers in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton are affected by mental health issues.

This growing recognition of the importance of workplace mental health was underlined just last week when the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion on the subject.

In that context, the city of Hamilton appears to be moving in the right direction. Last year council signed off on a comprehensive policy to support workplace mental health.

Based upon national standards, the strategy is intended to raise awareness, reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, and provide supports to improve “personal resilience and achieve optimal mental health and well being.”

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