Mental health issues are a major cause of human suffering, lost productivity, workplace disability, and economic loss, explains Dr. Vicki Kristman. This is why she believes that appropriate workplace accommodation for people with mental health disorders is essential. Dr. Kristman is an associate professor with Lakehead University’s Department of Health Sciences and a CIHR Investigator in Community-Based Primary Healthcare.
“Lost time is a huge expense for employers,” Kristman says. “Keeping people at work can save millions of dollars.” Employees with physical injuries are less productive and it’s a similar situation for employees with undisclosed mental health issues.
Studies have shown that 1 in every 3 Canadians experience mental or substance use disorders in their lifetime.
Kristman drew on her expertise in workplace disability prevention to lead a recent studyfunded by the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba. The study investigated the impact of accommodating workers with mental health issues. Kristman and a group of Lakehead student researchers interviewed supervisors and workers from 30 businesses across Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba to seek input on accommodations for mental health disorders. “It’s an opportunity to understand the needs of workers,” she says.
The economic burden of mental health disorders in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year.
The stigma associated with mental health is a huge barrier that discourages workers from revealing their needs to employers – despite the fact that these disorders are commonplace. Studies have shown that one in every three Canadians experience mental or substance use disorders in their lifetime, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada. The economic burden of mental health disorders in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year.
Dr. Kristman’s research is shedding light on what types of accommodation are currently available and what employees think would allow them to stay on the job. She is convinced that if employers know the issues, they will make the modifications needed to help their workers.
That’s not just good for employee relations – it’s also good for business and overall workplace health.
Lakehead University integrates research into its curriculum to prepare students to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners. As RE$EARCH Infosource’s “2017 Undergraduate Research University of the Year,” Lakehead is providing new opportunities for their students, while developing insights that will help improve overall well-being in workplaces in Canada and around the world.