Mental health and the importance of psychological health and safety in the workplace were spotlighted at the annual Health and Safety awards breakfast at the Association of Mineral Explorers (AME) Roundup conference in Vancouver this week.
The event, held on Wednesday, also celebrated this year’s Safe Day Everyday Gold Award recipients, Boart Longyear and Eldorado Gold Quebec.
While major miners such as Rio Tinto and BHP have campaigns focused on targeting bullying and harassment and Teck Resources, Anglo American and Newcrest have dedicated mental health initiatives, keynote speaker Michelle Hohn, principal at Akashic Communications, pointed out that juniors and even mid tiers can have glaring human resources gaps as employees suffer burnout in silence.
Hohn emphasized the importance of finding ways of integrating psychological health and safety (PHS) initiatives into corporate cultures — no matter how small the company.
Hohn clarified the definition of psychological safety as the absence of harm and/or threat of harm to mental well-being that a worker might experience. A psychologically healthy and safe workplace is defined as a workplace that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to workers.
She also introduced the audience to some chilling statistics: In 2021, the cost of health insurance claims in Canada related to mental health reached a staggering C$40.8 billion ($30.6bn). The Mental Health Commission of Canada reported in any given week, 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health issues.
“In 2019, approximately 300 million people lived with anxiety, 280 million people lived with depression, and 703,000 people died by suicide,” Hohn said.
She pointed to the National Standard of Canada’s workplace psychosocial factors known to positively impact an employee’s mental health, psychological safety, participation, and productivity.
Hohn’s advice regarding addressing gaps in a company’s HR and integrating psychological health and safety into an organizational structure include due diligence checks, reviewing and updating policy landscapes, incorporating aspects of PHS into risk assessment and communicating performance in sustainability reporting.
“Start small — start now,” she advised.