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Tough talks: having a real conversation around mental health

According to the World Health Organization, one out of four individuals are affected by a mental health disorder in their lifetime

By Emree Siaroff, Chief Human Resources Officer (Toronto, Ontario)

He was a cherished friend, coworker, and parent—quite possibly the last person you would expect to take his own life. Tragically, earlier this year, that is what happened to one of our colleagues. He was 49 years old and a respected professional, beloved father, husband, friend, and peer with an outgoing, polite, easy, and friendly demeanor. He was an individual known for making sure everyone was included, looked after, and comfortable. He adored his two daughters and attended their every practice, game, or school event. His wife, by all accounts, was the love of his life. They were very close and had a large group of mutual friends.

No one knew he was struggling with mental health issues and no one saw it coming. We can’t help but wonder if his situation may have had a different outcome if he had felt comfortable sharing his struggles or seeking help for them. Perhaps if he had been able to talk about it, he would be here today. His story is more common than we like to admit. According to the World Health Organization, one out of four individuals are affected by a mental health disorder in their lifetime. It’s time for a very healthy conversation about this difficult topic. 

October 10 is World Mental Health Day and the theme is Mental Health in the Workplace. This is our opportunity to talk about mental illness and mental health and well-being—challenges that are very real for many people.

What’s your role on October 10? First, be open to the conversation. Help remove the stigma associated with mental health. Consider some of the following online resources designed to help guide conversations around mental health with coworkers, friends and family:

Second, don’t be afraid to get the help you need. If you break your arm or cut yourself, you don’t think twice about getting medical attention. Mental health matters. One way to find help is through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Over the course of my career, I have watched as this kind of support has moved from the exception to the mainstream. Today, many companies have EAPs with counseling services available. There are also online and public resources available to help you navigate the issues you are facing and means available for treatment:

US:

Canada:

Global:

At Stantec, we have signed a pledge with the World Federation of Mental Health and are sponsoring their efforts in promoting World Mental Health day. We do this as part of a larger conversation around this topic and our commitment to be proactive in promoting a culture that values mental health wellness, builds awareness, and reduces stigma. Last week, following my communication to our work force on this commitment, I heard back from many staff whose lives have been touched by mental health challenges. There’s a reality that mental health and mental illness impacts all of us.

It could be a coworker, a family member, or a friend—chances are that someone close to you is dealing with a mental health issue. Please do your part by focusing on awareness, acceptance, and early intervention. For those of you who have experienced this on either side of the fence, please share your thoughts and help create a comfortable space that can ignite conversations about mental health. Together, we can make a difference. 

Emree has more than 20 years of experience as both a practitioner and leader in the retail, commodities, manufacturing, and professional services industries. He is Stantec’s senior vice president of Human Resources and chief human resources officer.

This is our opportunity to talk about mental illness and mental health and well-being—challenges that are very real for many people.

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