October is Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month. Health-care workers, leaders and organizational decision-makers can celebrate this month by making plans to holistically improve the health of their workplace and collectively work toward a shared vision of psychologically healthier and safer workplaces.
Unique challenges of health-care workers
Ontario is currently facing health human resources challenges. If you are a health-care worker, you know that the types of challenges you experience are unique because there is a level of altruism that is expected in your sector. It is no surprise, then, that your workforce has seen not only burnout in recent years, but also moral distress. Workers have experienced unprecedented levels of mental health challenges, and many programs and services were developed for your industry in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But what if your workplace itself is contributing to your mental health challenges? In that case, “organizational psychological health and safety,” rather than solely individual therapeutic supports, should be considered to address the underlying issues of the health-care system.
What you and your workplace can do
The good news is that whether you’re a frontline health-care worker or a health-care leader, there are things that are within your control.
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario’s Your Health Space facilitates free psychoeducational training to raise awareness and build skills around workplace mental health, or to begin the important work of shifting policies and procedures to improve organizational psychological health and safety. Leaders can bring in training for themselves and their staff so that they can collectively move the needle on workplace culture.
In addition to participating in your organization’s wellness initiatives, paying attention to your own health (and mental health is health!) is vital. Practically speaking, you can consider at home and at work the elements of the PERMA model, which are regarded as the building blocks for a fulfilling life in positive psychology.
PERMA stands for:
Cultivate happiness and joy in your day to fight negativity bias and improve coping.
Be present and participate in activities that are challenging and/or utilize your talents.
Share and celebrate, foster strong bonds in the workplace.
Reflect on your sense of value, purpose and belonging in your work.
Set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements.
Proactively working on the elements of PERMA has been shown to improve one’s well-being, as well as decrease psychological distress.
Ontario Health’s Mental Wellness Supports for Health Care Workers provides free, confidential support to anyone who works in a health-care setting, regardless of their role. In crisis? Call Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566 or find your local CMHA branch. For immediate help, call 911.
Ashley Kim, Health Administration in Community Care (MA) ’19 is Program Manager, Your Health Space at Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario division. She is a mother, registered nurse and advocate for culture change in health-care organizations to improve workplace mental health for health-care workers.
Background photo by Vladimir Fedotov.