A Passport for Mental Wellness
In summer 2018, Evergreen, a non-profit organization based in Toronto, had an employee experience a serious mental health issue. The employee found themselves struggling in the workplace environment.
Once this came to light, senior management and staff at Evergreen rallied together and proved mental health in the workplace isn’t something employees or employers need to fear.
The employee was embraced by Evergreen staff and connected to the assistance they needed to get better. “I was so impressed to see how our team supported their colleague” says Sarah Heynen, the Chief Operating Officer of Evergreen.
Just two years ago that level of support might not have been possible. Heynen would have told you that while she was aware of the topic of mental health in the workplace she was also “aware of how little [she] knew about it.”
Up to that point, there wasn’t an explicit call to action from Evergreen employees for programming around mental health wellness. But looking back Heynen says the signals were all there.
“We had employees on mental health related leave, HR getting approached for advice on stress management, and growing conversations about our responsibility to our employees to support their well-being.” Heynen recognized the need to take action but the path forward had been unclear.
That all changed when Evergreen became involved with CivicAction’s MindsMatter initiative in December 2016.
Through MindsMatter, Heynen learned that her organization needed to set a clear goal to reduce how much the workplace was contributing to stress and foster an internal climate where employees could feel safe disclosing a mental health issue.
With these two goals in mind, Evergreen set off on its mental health journey.
To introduce employees to existing workplace wellness supports, Evergreen hosted a wellness fair that shone a spotlight on nine different initiatives ranging from guided nature walks, to ergonomic assessments, to a peer-support mental health champions program.
But like any good journey, Evergreen realized their staff needed a passport to get the most out of the experience.
Employees were given a “passport” to carry during the fair containing multiple choice questions to answer as they visited stations. Questions were themed around health and safety policies, the employee assistance program, mindfulness, and the benefits of art and nature to cultivating wellness. Once completed, employees could submit their passport for a chance to win a prize for learning about wellness initiatives at Evergreen.
“Since the wellness fair, we’ve really seen a culture of wellness take hold in the organization” notes Heynen. A mindfulness club, yoga groups, and further peer-support has sprouted-up over the course of the last year.
But for a successful journey, a passport alone won’t do, you also need a skilled guide. In parallel to the initiatives and awareness raised at the wellness fair, Evergreen has provided training to people managers on mental health first aid.
With passports in hand, and well-equipped guides, Evergreen employees are well positioned to support each other in a more mental health friendly workplace.