Each and every week, 500,000 employees take time off work for health reasons in Canada. A new survey may suggest a leading cause, with 10.1% of all employees in Canada self-reporting poor mental health. Statistics Canada reports even higher numbers, with 20 percent of Canadians likely to experience mental illness in their lifetime , and 25 percent likely to experience “Anxiety Disorders.” 
Frightening: Suicide thoughts increase
As many as 426,900 employees — 4.1% according to the survey — report “thoughts of suicide”, up from the previous year’s study at 2.3%. The study — with a substantial sample size of 5,000 adults — comes from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and identifies soaring costs to employees, employers, the health care system and the economy.
“It’s very important to prioritize work with mental health considering that we know an estimated $51 billion annually in Canada is around mental health-care costs,” said Katy Kamkar, clinical psychologist, from CAMH. This does not include economic costs or costs to the employer.
Rarely any warning of absenteeism
Stressors are often hidden, due to workplace stigmas. A person suffering from “Anxiety Disorder” — which can lead to more serious issues — will usually hide the issues to avoid workplace shame. This can be a significant number of people since the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada claims: “the 12-month prevalence for any anxiety disorder is over 12% and one in four Canadians (25%) will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime.”
Often, due to the nature of mental stress — either because of a well-hidden issue from the employee or a sudden worsening of condition — the employer may have no warning. A key employee may suddenly present a doctor’s note requesting 2-weeks leave for depression. Sometimes, even an “unspecified” leave of absence.
Work stress a big factor: indicated by tenure statistics
The long-term work stress-factor is indicated, in part, by the increase in absenteeism due to illness or disability from longer-term employees. According to Statscan:
- Employees with less than 12 months on the job: 4.5 days average each year.
- Employees with 5 years and less: 5.7 days absence.
- Employees with 5 to 9 years: 6.1 days.
- Employees 9 to 14 years: 6.5 days
- Employees over 14 years: 6.7 days 
Although some of this may be behavioural — a new employee will resist calling in sick, typically — it is more likely attributed to stress, ageing and health, and notably mental health.
Do you need help managing workplace stress issues or mental health issues in the workplace? Ask the experts at Pivotal HR Solutions. [Contact form below.]
HR solutions: outsource limits issues and maximizes confidentiality
Fortunately, full-service HR management solutions can immediately step in with relief in many cases: with temporary resources to fill the productivity gap, but also consulted management policies and programs to manage stress in the workplace. With a full-service HR team, proactive steps can help the employer act quickly and can help the employee through workplace stress triggers.
It is often the most productive or brilliant team members who are subject to the highest amount of workplace stress. Workplace stress has momentum. If one employee is on leave for mental health issues, this creates added pressure to the remaining team. With a breach of personal employee confidentiality, stress for everyone intensifies, and there can be liabilities for the Employer.
Privacy in HR: policies only the beginning
One of the issues with mental health issues is privacy. Even the most well-meaning of internal HR teams will have difficulty retaining confidentiality when key people abruptly — with no notice — don’t show up for two weeks. Policies for privacy only go so far in a workplace environment.
Outsourced HR solutions are usually far better for confidentiality issues — and also enforced pro-active solutions. With mental health, the privacy of the employee is not only ethical important, but it’s also critically important to avoid issues. A breach of confidentiality can trigger intolerable levels of stress.
Do you need help implementing HR policies to minimize absenteeism due to mental stress? Do you need help replacing key team members due to mental health? As the experts at Pivotal HR Management.