Work Stress Primary Cause of Mental Health Issues

As we go through life entering new jobs and careers, something that is consistent is stress. Whether you’re 16 and starting your first summer job or you’re in the last years before you enter retirement – we all feel stress at work.

But too much stress can have a huge impact.

new Canadian study found that for the majority of respondents’ workplace stress was the primary cause of their mental health problem or illness. The top two issues were reported to be depression and anxiety.

These findings are shocking and hard to ignore.

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They mean that a huge portion of the population is affected by these mental heal issues due to work stress. Out of the population of around 17 million Canadians who work full or part-time, about 3.4 million workers could be experiencing a mental health issue.

We know there is an issue but how are workers dealing with it?

The majority of respondents felt that their mental health issues would hurt their careers and that they could only put in an ‘optimal performance’ at work for less than 70 per cent of the day. It was also the main reason they were missing work, with 34 per cent missing work for two months or more.

This is costing employers, the economy and workers. It’s time to find solutions and start a conversation about mental health support at work.

Teamsters 362 has been fighting to end the stigma surrounding mental health with two major initiatives – Make it Mandatory and You Are Not Alone.

Make it Mandatory was created after tragedy struck some of our members in 2012. Travis Baumgartner fatally shot three of his coworkers, Eddie Rejano, Brian Ilesic and Michelle Shegelski, a fourth, Matthew Schuman, rushed to hospital with a gunshot wound.

We wanted to do more to bring attention to mental health support in the workplace after this incident and encourage the government to make it mandatory.

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You Are Not Alone is a docuseries that was created when we saw rising suicide rates in Alberta.

Our eight-part docuseries travelled around Alberta to hear from those who have been directly affected by suicide and advocates who are speaking out and trying to raise awareness.

We have also negotiated mental health support into collective bargaining agreements, something that we will continue to do moving forward.

Mental health support in the workplace is clearly needed, and as Canadians, we need to do more.

Suicide And The Workplace: What You Need To Know

Over the last few weeks, the crisis of suicide has once again come to the forefront. People around the world were devastated to hear of the news of both designer Kate Spade and chef and author Anthony Bourdain dying by suicide.

It left many people confused, angry and wondering just how anyone could do that – especially people so loved and appreciated.

But suicide doesn’t discriminate. It is a global crisis.

Every year nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide and we do not have a national strategy in place to deal with it.

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One important place to start with prevention is in the workplace. It is where we spend a huge portion of our lives and interact with others on a daily basis.

Warning Signs in the Workplace:

  • A co-worker who has been acting depressed in the workplace that now seems to be very happy
  • Someone who is acting more aggressive or stressed out than usual and you notice them lashing out at people
  • They comment about always being tired and you notice that they are more fatigued than usual
  • They make comments about being a burden to others and suggest that the world would be better off without them there
  • They don't show up for work as often or they are absent for periods of time
  • They are not being as productive as usual or seem very un-motivated (presenteeism)

So, what exactly do you do if you see these warning signs?

The Centre for Suicide Prevention recommends telling your coworker that you have noticed changes in their behaviour and that you are concerned about them. You should also directly ask them if they have been having thoughts of suicide and have resources ready to provide them with so they can get help.

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The more we address suicide in the workplace, the more we can reduce the stigma. No one should have to feel alone and that their only option is to die by suicide.

For more information and resources be sure to visit the Centre for Suicide Prevention’s website.  If it is a crisis and you need to talk to someone right away phone 1-833-456-4566.

We Need To Do More For Homeless LGBTQ2S Youth

Being a teenager can be a tough time.

Your body is changing, and so is your mind. You are searching for independence, but still need the support of your family. All of this can be difficult to navigate, and can be even harder if you are also coming out for the first time.

Unfortunately, an all too common reality for many young LGBTQ2S youth, is a rejection by their families. Many times this means being forced to live on the streets.

This is a huge issue across Canada.

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According to research from coast to coast, about 14 per cent of young Canadians identify as LGBT, but they make up 40 per cent of the number of youth living on our streets.

Alex Abramovich is a researcher at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). He explained in an interview with the Huffington Post  that LGBT youth become homeless for much of the same reasons as other young people, but when you add LGBT identity into the mix, the severity of these reasons can multiply. This can include family conflict, abuse, mental health issues and addiction.

Shelters can become the only option, but these are not always safe for LGBTQ2S youth. They face emotional and physical violence from non-LGBTQ2S individuals in the shelter, and sometimes even from staff.

"Hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are the most violent of any hate crime and we know that these are youth-based crimes," Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, told CBC News.

But organizations and governments are starting to make some much-needed changes.

Toronto will be home to Canada's first federally funded emergency and transitional housing facility for LGBT youth in 2019. The Salvation Army opened a new spacefor homeless members of the LGBT community in Winnipeg. OUTSaskatoon has opened the first long-term LGBTQ youth home in Canada for individuals at risk of homelessness called Pride Home.

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And Alberta has been taking steps since 2015.

Alberta became the first province to adopt a provincial strategy on LGBTQ2S youth homelessness. In 2017 the provincial government announced new guidelines for shelters, following through on key recommendations made by Abramovich at CAMH.

While change is being made, there is still much work to do across the country. LGBTQ2S homeless youth need our support and provinces need to do more to address the serious issues they face.

Transgender Youth Suicide Rate Demonstrates A Need For Increased Support

Suicide and self-harm are not easy topics to talk about. Their personal and can be difficult to understand if you have never dealt with it yourself. It can be even more difficult to deal with when you are a young.

One group in particular that has a crisis-level issue with suicide and self-harm is the young transgender community.

A 2017 report found that almost 65 per cent of transgender youth in Alberta between the ages of 19 and 25 have considered suicide at some point in their lives.

A nation-wide survey of transgender youth found about two-thirds of the youth reported engaging in non-suicidal self-injury in the past year.

These statistics show Canada is failing these young people.

Experts suggest that people who want to end their life ‘feel so much pain that they see no other option’ and in desperation ‘see death as a way to escape their overwhelming pain.’

Self-harm doesn’t necessarily mean a person wants to end their life, but it can lead to suicide. People who do this usually do it to communicate emotional pain, fell a sense of control or punish themselves.

This is what happened to Jordyn Dyck, a transgender 14 teen living in Saskatchewan who was brutally bullied at school.

“I was treated differently because I was born a female and wanted to be a different person than I was,” Jordyn explained in an interview with CBC News Saskatchewan. “It made me feel like I shouldn’t be the way I am.”

Jordyn wanted to die and went on to self-harm and attempt suicide.

“I felt like I couldn’t support myself when all of these other people didn’t support me,” stated Jordyn.

Now Jordyn has switched schools and is going through a lot of counseling. Things are looking up.

Studies have shown with the right support, suicide and self-harm for transgender youth can be prevented.

A study in the journal of BMC Public Health, found a connection between the risk of suicide amongst transgender people and factors such as parental support, transphobia and ease of access to a medical transition.

Alberta has made some steps in the right direction.

As of February, the Gender Health Program at the University of Alberta has opened, the first clinic in the Prairie Provinces.

Transgender youth have a place to go to start their journey.

Previously a clinic based out of the Alberta Children’s Hospital was the only specialized clinic called the Metta Clinic. It was only open one half day a month, with a waitlist of up to three years.

As more research is showing that transgender youth and their family in Canada need more support, it is time for organizations and the government to pay attention and take action.



Alberta Needs to Focus on Mental Health

Alberta is a province that experiences boom and bust cycles in the economy.

The last couple of years the downturn seemed to dominate the headlines with stories of massive layoffs every few weeks and the toll this was taking on the mental health of Albertans.

Recently things have been looking up in our economy and it seems that Alberta is turning a corner. However, mental health continues to be a huge issue for Albertans.

Dr. Robbie Babins-Wagner is the CEO of the Calgary Counseling Centre, said in an interview with Metro Calgary that demand has been steadily increasing since 2014. She added that they are expecting a 3-5 per cent increase for 2018.

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And it is not just for people who are without work.

According to a survey released by Morneau Shepell 36 per cent of workers in the Alberta report a high level of stress, one of the highest in the country.

Eighty per cent of employees also felt their bosses needed to take a more active role in supporting employees with mental health issues and Alberta was one of the lowest in Canada for how workers ranked employers on providing mental health support.

Youth are also in growing need of mental health support in Calgary.

In a recent article by the Calgary Herald they found the Distress Centre in Calgary is facing a 115 per cent spike in teens facing a mental health crisis. Jerilyn Dressler, executive director with Distress Centre Calgary said they want to expand online services for teens but need additional operational funding.

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Mental Health issues cost the Canadian economy over $50 billion each year and both Teamsters Canada and Teamsters Local 362 have created ‘Make It Mandatory’ mental health campaigns to make mental health resources mandatory in every workplace across Canada.

Following the momentum of our previous mental health initiative, Make It Mandatory, we created the campaign #YouAreNotAlone with the aim of raising awareness and preventing suicide in Alberta, and across the country.

We must do more, recession or not, to support all Albertans when it comes to mental health.


Stressed this Holiday Season? Five Tips to Take Care of your Mental Health in the Workplace

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except if you are completely stressed. Unfortunately, stress is something that has become synonymous with the holiday season and it can affect your home and work life.

For people who already have trouble with a work – life balance, it can be particularly daunting with even more put on your plate at home and work with deadlines, parties and presents.

Some experts have said this time of the year can even have an effect on the brain by releasing a certain type of hormone when you are too stressed. The hormone it releases can disrupt your sleep, suppress your immune system and cause depression and anxiety.

Here are some ways you can deal with stress during the holiday season.

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1.     Talk about stress and your mental health

One of the most important ways of dealing with stress is being able to talk to someone about it. In the workplace, this could be a coworker you trust, your supervisor or boss or a shop steward or business agent.

2.     Know you are not alone

Statistics show that 1 in 5 Canadian adults will suffer from a mental health disorder in their lifetime. Chances are if you are dealing with stress, other people in your workplace are as well. There are many resources across Canada that are there for you year round if you feel you need to talk to a professional about mental health issues listed here.

3.     Your mental health should matter to your employer

Mental health issues cost the Canadian economy over $50 billion dollars per year, and more than $6 billion of that is from lost productivity costs due to absenteeism and presenteeism. If you are a good employee, your employer will want to keep your around. Unions such a Teamsters 362 have been fighting for better mental health support for workplaces, and are also a resource to reach out to if you feel your employer is ignoring this issue in the workplace.

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4.     Keep perspective

Chances are during the holiday season you are going to be pulled in a lot of different directions, and it is important to know you can’t do it all. A recent study revealed that millennials in particular feel this stress attending 24 events between November to New Years eve. Set limits to the amount of events you will attend and the amount you will spend during the holiday season.

5.     Take time out for yourself

You are going to be pulled a million different directions both inside and outside of the workplace, so it is important to remember to prioritize some alone time. Whether it is going for a walk or taking a yoga class, make sure you have some time away from the holiday buzz.

Alberta Government Plan To Do More About Workplace Bullying

Bullying is an issue that is all too common in the workplace, and it has made headlines here in Alberta the last few weeks with City of Edmonton employees speaking out against harassment at work.

When Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray announced major changes to  Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act with the introduction of Bill 30  An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans.

One of the much needed changes will come to safety rules regarding bullying and psychological harassment.

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The Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) pointed out on their website that the most harmful forms of bullying are usually psychological and subtle – making them hard to recognize.

This can result in disrupting sleeping and eating patterns, increased use of drugs or alcohol, depression or even suicidal thoughts.

It is clear that bullying is something that needs to be taken seriously and many are applauding this move by the Alberta government to do more about it.

Being a union member also means you have a resource to reach out to if you feel you are being unfairly treated at work.

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When you are part of a union, you can reach out to a Shop Steward or Business Agent you feel comfortable sharing the issue with. They can also help you take care of your mental health, which can be greatly affected by bullying. Teamsters 362 has a full list of resources on our website that you can find here.

If you are not yet a part of a union, calling one and finding out what your rights are is also an action you could take.

Trade unions are there to stand up for all of your rights as a worker and ensure that you are working in a safe and healthy work environment –  that definitely includes workplace bullying.

Fort McMurray Seeing Increase in Calls Related to Suicidal Thoughts

One of the worst disasters in Alberta’s history is still having a huge impact nearly two years later. In May 2016 the entire city of Fort McMurray was evacuated due to a wildfire that would become known as ‘The Beast’. Almost 2,500 buildings (mostly residential homes) were lost in the fire.

Now a local society for crisis prevention says that calls about suicidal thoughts have reached 155 this year with only 54 recorded in 2016.

Some Other Solutions (SOS) is a Crisis Prevention Centre that supports all individuals when experiencing stress, emotional distress, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts.

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In an interview with CBC, executive director Jason King said that it could be because more people are aware of the service but also a sign that the wildfire had a significant impact on people’s mental health.

Teamsters 362 had previously focused on mental health in Fort McMurray during our suicide prevention initiative called You Are Not Alone. In Episode 3, Linda Sovdi with SOS said that not only was the fire going to have an impact on mental health, but also the economic downturn that had started before the fire.

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It is so important to be able to reach out to someone if you are feeling suicidal and to know that you are not alone. Alberta is a very close community and we need to come together to help anyone in Fort McMurray who needs support. You can find a full list of mental health resources on our website here.

Teamsters 362 Nominated for Mental Health Award

Mental health is starting to get the attention it deserves, and Teamsters Local 362 has been honoured to be a part of that.

Over the past few years we have launched two mental health campaigns that have created awareness and fought against stigma – Make it Mandatory and You Are Not Alone.

This month we were honoured to have our Vice-President Jordan Madarash and Teamsters Local 362 receive recognition from the Lieutenant Governor's Circle on Mental Health and Addiction True Awards.

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Jordan was nominated by Dianne and Mick Ilesic, the parents of Brian Ilesic who was tragically killed on June 15, 2012. On this day, Travis Baumgartner fatally shot three of his coworkers including Ilesic, Eddie Rejano, and Michelle Shegelski, a fourth, Matthew Schuman, was rushed to hospital with a gunshot wound to the head.

“Jordan came personally to meet us and offer condolences, and offer information that would be helpful,” said Dianne, adding that he was there to support them right from the beginning.

Rob Harkness and his sister also nominated Jordan. Rob is a member of Teamsters and had worked with those involved. After the incident Rob was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and faced scrutiny at work when he courageously shared his struggles. He still doesn’t regret talking about it and said he never will.

Both Rob and the Ilesic’s took part in our mental health initiative by Teamsters 362 called Make it Mandatory, which encouraged people to demand mental health support become mandatory in the workplace.

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The Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction is a charitable organization dedicated to helping reduce stigma related to mental illness and addiction. Each year they put on the True Awards to ‘offer encouragement and recognition to Albertans who have shown commitment, passion and ingenuity in improving the lives of those living with mental illness and/or addiction.’

Although Jordan and Teamsters 362 did not receive the final award, we were honoured to receive a certificate of nomination. We hope to continue with our work to bring awareness to mental health issues.


Workplace Psychological Harassment Must Be Addressed

No one likes a bully. Whether on the playground, in your social life or at your workplace, dealing with a bully can have a huge impact on your life.

Feeling dread when you have to go to work can be all consuming and cause serious mental health issues.

Now a woman from Calgary is taking her experience to the House of Commons.

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Wendy Gaucher-Bigcharles has started a federal petition with the hopes of changes to the Canadian Labour Code (CLC). She wants it to include a legal definition of what exactly workplace psychological harassment is.

“Fundamentally there is no protection for somebody who experiences a campaign of psychological violence—over a period of time, repeated attacks of discrimination, harassment, and bullying,” she said in an interview with Metro News.

She said she experienced workplace psychological violence that included ‘acts of isolation, exclusion, alienation, intimidation, retaliation, denied access to processes and information, verbal and non-verbal insults and innuendo.’

This can be especially hard to deal with when the bully is a person in a position of power, like a manager or supervisor. They may use the excuse that this type of management style is boosting productivity or pushing an employee to work a little harder.

Having a union on your side can help.

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When you are part of a union, you can reach out to a Shop Steward or Business Agent you feel comfortable sharing the issue with. They can also help you take care of your mental health, which can be greatly effected by bullying. Teamsters 362 has a full list of resources on our website that you can find here.

If you are not yet a part of a union, calling one and finding out what your rights are is also an action you could take.

Trade unions are there to stand up for all of your rights as a worker and ensure that you are working in a safe and healthy work environment –  that definitely includes workplace bullying.