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MindsMatter Definitions

CivicAction’s MindsMatter: Mental Health in the Workplace Definitions

The following are definitions relating to mental health in the workplace as taken from Canadian Mental Health Association Promotion on Workplace Mental Health Guide (Pages: 8-12) and provided by Dr. Heather Stuart, Queen’s University.

Mental health according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by long-term exposure to demanding work situations. Burnout is the cumulative result of stress.

Discrimination describes the way people living with mental illness are treated, intentionally or unintentionally, due to stigma. People with mental illness are often treated with disrespect, experiencing such behaviours as exclusion, bullying, aggression, ridicule and devaluation. Such discrimination can result in limits and barriers to many of life’s opportunities.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential, voluntary program of information, referral and/or counselling designed to help employees with a variety of personal problems.

Employee health program is a program designed to maintain or enhance employee health. Also referred to as a Workplace Health Program.

Flourishing mental health is an individual’s subjective well-being, of which there are several dimensions– emotional well-being (e.g., positive affect, happiness, life satisfaction), psychological well-being (e.g., self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose), and social well-being (e.g., social acceptance).

Mental health problems (or challenges) are often short-term reactions to stressful circumstances, such as the death of a loved one, financial difficulty, or feeling overloaded at work. They may result in feelings of emotional distress, fatigue, sadness, or feelings of loneliness. Mental health problems are different from mental illnesses.  They only temporarily limit our ability to function; they are not medical diagnoses, and they may resolve without professional intervention. A co-worker experiencing a mental health challenge may appear angry or tired, miss work more often than usual, have more conflicts with colleagues, become quiet and withdrawn, or actively avoid previously enjoyable social situations.

Mental illnesses or mental disorders describe a range of conditions that are diagnosed by a mental health professional. They can interfere with one’s ability to function socially or occupationally, are accompanied by significant distress, do not resolve without professional help, and may need medication to reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Mental disorders can be intermittent and recurring, or can be ongoing. 

Psychological injury is a stress-related emotional condition resulting from real or imagined threats or injuries that may become the subjects of personal injury litigation, workers compensation claims, criminal injury compensation, other disability claims or human rights tribunals. It is an injury to mental well-being and/or an injury to or loss of cognitive function.

Psychosocial Risk Factors (PSRs) are organizational factors that impact the psychological safety and health of employees.

Psychological safety is the risk that a worker might experience injury to, or loss of, cognitive function or injury to mental well-being. It calls for taking precautions in order to avert injury, danger or loss to cognitive function and to maintain mental well-being.

Psychologically safe workplace is a workplace that does not permit harm to employee mental health in careless, negligent, reckless or intentional ways.

Stigma is the negative and prejudicial ways in which people experiencing mental health issues are labeled. Stigma is an internal attitude and belief held by individuals, often about a minority group such as people experiencing a mental health issue.

Stress refers to potentially negative physical or mental tensions experienced by a person.

Stressor refers to any event or situation that an individual perceives as a threat, precipitates either adaptation or the stress response.

Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable or inappropriate behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.

Workplace harassment is engaging in a course of vexatious comments or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.

Wellness and well-being is the personal experience of physical and mental health.

Work-life balance is a state of well-being that a person can reach, or can set as a goal, in order to allow that person to manage effectively multiple responsibilities at work, at home and in the community. Work-life balance is different for everyone. It supports physical, emotional, family and community health and does so without grief, stress or negative impact.

Work-life conflict occurs when roles within the workplace and outside it are overwhelming to an employee or interfering with one another.

Workplace is the organization or business employing a person.

Workplace violence is an exercise of physical force or the attempt to exercise physical force by a person against a worker in a workplace that causes, or could cause, physical injury to the worker.