Regina expert says employers need to focus on mental health in workplaces

Reports of psychological injuries in the workplace are on the rise in Saskatchewan.

A local mental health therapist says it is one thing to deal with physical injury, but it can be difficult when it comes to mental or psychological injuries.

According to studies and research, Jane Chukwujekwu says, there is a stigma around mental health and employees might fear repercussions if they open up about their mental health struggles.

“The average Canadian spends 30 to 40 hours in the workplace (each week). It’s important that we place close attention to employee’s mental health,” she said.

“The impact of psychological distress in the workplace can manifest in various ways. It might look like an employee continuously doubting themselves. We have high rates of absenteeism; high rates of presenteeism (lost productivity); an employee could withdraw or even completely quit their employment. So, it really varies from person to person.”

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Read more: WorkSafe Saskatchewan launches new 5-year strategy to reduce injuries, fatalities

Chukwujekwu said employers should pay close attention to employees who seem withdrawn or who do not engage, maintain or meet expected attendance rates.

“There might be other signs such as seeming moody or weepy,” she said. “I believe that as a supervisor or as a manager in the workplace, adequate training would be helpful to be able to recognize all the various manifestations of psychological distress in an employee.”

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According to the most recent workplace injury statistics, in 2021 the Workers’ Compensation Board accepted 238 mental health-related claims, as opposed to 174 claims accepted five years earlier.

Read more: Vast majority of workers with mental health issues keep it secret from their boss: study

The WCB CEO Phillip Germain says changes in legislation and increased awareness are partly responsible for the jump in reporting.

“Not many people were comfortable reporting prior to the legislative change. Since then we have seen a steady increase of psychological injuries both for primary psychological injuries and secondary psychological injuries related to physical claims,” he said.

The average claim now is for around 70 days of lost work, Germain said.

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While it appears these numbers may be high, silence is more harmful.

Since the pandemic began, 41 per cent of people in Canada have reported a decline in their mental health. Every year, millions of dollars are lost to mental health injuries.

To help reduce that cost employers have a role to play, according to Germain.

“I think with psychological issues you can’t completely disassociate work and non-work – it’s all mixed together. Our job is to figure out whether or not the circumstances at work were the main contributor,” said Germain.

On Monday, WorkSafe Saskatchewan unveiled its new workplace safety strategy which included psychological injuries with the hope by opening a dialogue, so people will be able to get help faster.

Click to play video: 'WorkSafe Sask. launches new 5-year strategy to reduce injuries'

WorkSafe Sask. launches new 5-year strategy to reduce injuries

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