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Mental Health vs. Mental Illness – What’s the difference?
Many people use the terms “mental health” and “mental illness” interchangeably, when really, they mean different things.
Mental health is defined as the state of our psychological and emotional well-being. It is a necessary resource for living a healthy life and a main factor in overall health. It influences how we think and feel about ourselves and others, how we interpret events, and deal with the normal stresses of life. It affects our capacity to learn, communicate, and form, sustain, or end relationships. Just as we all have physical health, we all have mental health, too.
Good mental health allows you to feel, think, and act in ways that help you enjoy life and effectively cope with its challenges. It includes having a sense of purpose and self, as well as strong relationships and connections. Your mental health can be positively or negatively influenced by factors such as life experiences, relationships with others, work environment, physical health, and community. Maintaining good mental health can help reduce the risk of developing mental health issues or illnesses.
Mental illness describes the reduced ability for a person to function effectively over a prolonged period due to factors such as significant levels of stress, changes in thinking, mood, or behaviour, feelings of isolation, loneliness, or sadness, and the feeling of being disconnected from people and activities. Mental illness is not the same as feeling temporarily distressed because of normal reactions to difficult situations. Most of us can regain control of our lives after a difficult situation, even if we are experiencing poor mental health. People with mental illness feel distress regularly and may not be able to cope with the simplest aspects of everyday life.
While poor mental health can contribute to mental illness, it is important to understand that mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. Mental health is not simply the absence of a diagnosed mental illness and living with a mental illness does not mean you can not have good mental health. One in five people in Canada will experience a mental health issue or illness in any given year. But five in five of us have mental health.
- In 2020, depression became the leading cause of disability worldwide.
- 500,000 people are unable to work in any given week because of a mental health distress.
- 1 in 3 Canadians (33.3%) will be affected by a mental illness during their lifetime.
- 70% of disability costs are attributed to mental illness.
- About 4,000 Canadians per year die by suicide—an average of almost 11 suicides a day.
What is psychological safety?
Psychological safety is defined as the absence of harm and/or threat of harm to mental well-being that an employee might experience.
Psychologically healthy and safe workplaces and organizational culture – How are they related?
A psychologically healthy and safe workplace is one that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to employee psychological health including in negligent, reckless, or intentional ways. This type of workplace ensures that the basic needs of employees are considered and enhanced. These needs as it relates to the workplace include:
- Physical and psychological safety.
- Skill engagement and healthy challenge.
- Freedom to express views and contribute meaningfully to work activities.
- Reward and recognition for contributions.
- Opportunity for growth and development.
- Mutual respect from management and coworkers.
- Ample support and resources to do the job.
A psychologically unhealthy and unsafe workplace is one that lacks several or all these elements and is sustained due to unrealistic or unclear expectations, poor communication and leadership styles, lack of respect and understanding, unresolved safety concerns, insufficient breaks or time-off, and lack of recognition and opportunity for contribution or professional growth.
Organizational culture describes a pattern of basic assumptions invented, discovered, or developed by a given group that are a mix of values, beliefs, meanings, and expectations that group members hold in common and use as behavioral and problem-solving cues. The goal is to have a workplace where:
- All people are held accountable for their actions.
- All people show sincere respect for others’ ideas, values, and beliefs.
- Difficult situations are addressed effectively and appropriately.
- Workers feel they are part of a community at work.
- Workers and management trust one another.
A positive organizational culture could improve teamwork and morale, increase attendance, productivity, and efficiency, and enhance retention and competency of the workforce. A negative organizational culture could increase absenteeism and presenteeism, encourage unhealthy habits and attitudes, and create a higher risk of mental and physical problems, incidents, and accidents.
Organizational culture directly influences the level of psychological health and safety in the workplace – thus, prioritizing and working towards a positive organizational culture is key in creating and maintaining a psychologically healthy and safe workplace – and vice versa.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act of Nova Scotia outlines the legislative rights of employees and precautions and duties of all workplace parties. It is important to recognize that “health and safety” applies to both the physical and psychological elements of the terms. This understanding can help us reframe how we apply the legislation.
Based on this understanding, reconsider the following:
- All workplace parties share the responsibility for the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace.
- Where five or more persons are regularly employed, the employer must develop a written occupational health and safety policy in consultation with the appropriate workplace parties.
- Where twenty or more persons are regularly employed, the employer must develop and maintain a written occupational health and safety program in consultation with the appropriate workplace parties that is best adapted to the circumstances of the organization for the purpose of the implementing the policy.
- Ensure the safety of those at or near the workplace.
- Provide information and training necessary to protect the health or safety of employees.
- Ensure employees are aware of any health or safety hazards at the workplace.
- Carry out business in a way that does not endanger the health or safety of employees.
- Consult and cooperate with the joint occupational health and safety committee or representative.
- Establish an occupational health and safety policy and program where one is required.
- Cooperate with the employer and fellow employees to take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of themselves and others at or near the workplace.
- Consult and cooperate with the joint occupational health and safety committee or safety representative.
- Report unsafe acts and conditions at the workplace
CSA Z1003-13 “Psychological health and safety in the workplace – prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation”
Does your workplace health and safety program address mental health and psychological safety? Which existing elements of your program could be strengthened by considering these aspects? Have you ever wondered what gaps should be addressed to help increase the level of psychological safety in your workplace?
CSA standard Z1003-13 is a free, voluntary standard commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The standard provides guidance for implementation and continuous improvement of a successful psychological health and safety management system. It is complete with sample documents to help you through the process.
Access the CSA standard today to help guide change in the workplace.
Employee Assistance Programs
An EAP, or Employee Assistance Program, is a confidential, short term, counselling service for employees with personal difficulties that affect their work performance. These difficulties, however, do not have to be caused by workplace issues. Employee Assistance Programs are designed to help people understand or overcome their difficulties regardless of whether the source is work or otherwise.
The range of areas typically managed by an EAP provider include:
- Personal difficulties.
- Job stress.
- Relationship difficulties.
- Eldercare, childcare, parenting difficulties.
- Substance abuse.
- Separation and loss.
- Balancing work and family.
- Family violence.
If you are an employee, you can ask your HR representative if an EAP is available.
If you are an employer wondering how to provide an EAP to workers, you can visit this Fact Sheet.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
S.N.S. 1996, c. 7
2. The foundation of this Act is the Internal Responsibility System which
(a) is based on the principle that
(i) employers, contractors, constructors, employees and self- employed persons at a workplace, and
(ii) the owner of a workplace, a supplier of goods or provider of an occupational health or safety service to a workplace or an architect or professional engineer, all of whom can affect the health and safety of persons at the workplace,
share the responsibility for the health and safety of persons at the workplace;
(b) assumes that the primary responsibility for creating and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace should be that of each of these parties, to the extent of each party's authority and ability to do so;
(c) includes a framework for participation, transfer of information and refusal of unsafe work, all of which are necessary for the parties to carry out their responsibilities pursuant to this Act and the regulations; and
(d) is supplemented by the role of the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, which is not to assume responsibility for creating and maintaining safe and healthy workplaces, but to establish and clarify the responsibilities of the parties under the law, to support them in carrying out their responsibilities and to intervene appropriately when those responsibilities are not carried out.
[ S.N.S. 2010, c. 66, s. 1; 2011, c. 24, s. 1]
3. In this Act,
(a) "aggrieved person" means an employer, constructor, contractor, employee, self-employed person, owner, supplier, provider of an occupational health or safety service, architect, engineer or union at a workplace who is directly affected by an order or decision;
(b) "analyst" means a person appointed as an analyst by the Minister pursuant to this Act;
(c) "Board" means the Labour Board established under the Labour Board Act;
(d) "committee" means a joint occupational health and safety committee established pursuant to this Act;
(e) "compliance notice" means a response, in writing, to an order of an officer, describing the extent to which the person against whom the order was made has complied with each item identified in the order;
(f) "constructor" means a person who contracts for work on a project or who undertakes work on a project himself or herself;
(g) "contractor" means a person who contracts for work to be performed at the premises of the person contracting to have the work performed, but does not include a dependent contractor or a constructor;
(h) "contracts for work" includes contracting to perform work and contracting to have work performed;
(i) "Council" means the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council established pursuant to this Act;
(j) "dependent contractor" means a person, whether or not employed under a contract of employment and whether or not furnishing the person's own tools, vehicles, equipment, machinery, material or any other thing, who performs work or services for another on such terms and conditions that the person is
(i) in a position of economic dependence upon the other,
(ii) under an obligation to perform duties mainly for the other, and
(iii) in a relationship with the other more closely resembling that of an employee than an independent contractor;
(k) "Deputy Minister of Labour and Advanced Education" includes a person designated by the Deputy Minister of Labour and Advanced Education to act in the stead of the Deputy Minister;
(l) "Director" means the Executive Director of Occupational Health and Safety or any person designated by the Executive Director pursuant to this Act to act on behalf of the Executive Director;
(m) "Director of Labour Standards" means the Director of Labour Standards under the Labour Standards Code;
(n) "Division" means the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education;
(o) "employee" means a person who is employed to do work and includes a dependent contractor;
(p) "employer" means a person who employs one or more employees or contracts for the services of one or more employees, and includes a constructor, contractor or subcontractor;
(q) "former Act" means Chapter 320 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
(r) Repealed. [S.N.S. 2010, c. 37, s. 117]
(s) "Minister" means the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education;
(t) "occupation" means any employment, business, calling or pursuit;
(u) "officer" means an occupational health and safety officer appointed pursuant to this Act and includes the Director;
(v) "owner" includes a trustee, receiver, mortgagee in possession, tenant, lessee or occupier of lands or premises used as a workplace and a person who acts for, or on behalf of, an owner as an agent or delegate;
(w) "police officer" means
(i) a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or
(ii) a member or chief officer of a police force appointed pursuant to the Police Act;
(x) "policy" means an occupational health and safety policy made pursuant to this Act;
(y) "practicable" means possible, given current knowledge, technology and invention;
(z) "program" means an occupational health and safety program required pursuant to this Act, unless the context otherwise requires;
(aa) "project" means a construction project, and includes
(i) the construction, erection, excavation, renovation, repair, alteration or demolition of any structure, building, tunnel or work and the preparatory work of land clearing or earth moving, and
(ii) work of any nature or kind designated by the Director as a project;
(ab) "reasonably practicable" means practicable unless the person on whom a duty is placed can show that there is a gross disproportion between the benefit of the duty and the cost, in time, trouble and money, of the measures to secure the duty;
(ac) "regularly employed" includes seasonal employment with a predictably recurring period of employment that exceeds four weeks, unless otherwise established by regulation or ordered by an officer;
(aca) "repeatedly" means occurring more than once within the preceding three year period;
(ad) "representative" means a health and safety representative selected pursuant to this Act;
(ae) "self-employed person" means a person who is engaged in an occupation on that person's own behalf and includes a person or persons operating a sole proprietorship but does not include a dependent contractor;
(aea) "serious injury" means an injury that endangers life or causes permanent injury;
(af) "supplier" means a person who manufactures, supplies, sells, leases, distributes or installs any tool, equipment, machine or device or any biological, chemical or physical agent to be used at or near a workplace;
(ag) "union" includes a trade union as defined in the Trade Union Act that has the status of bargaining agent under that Act in respect of any bargaining unit at a workplace, and includes an organization representing employees where the organization has exclusive bargaining rights under any other Act in respect of the employees;
(ah) "workplace" means any place where an employee or a self-employed person is or is likely to be engaged in any occupation and includes any vehicle or mobile equipment used or likely to be used by an employee or a self-employed person in an occupation.
[S.N.S. 2000, c. 28, s. 86; 2010, c. 66, s. 2; 2010, c. 37, s. 117; 2011, c. 24, s. 2; 2016, c. 14, s. 1]
Section 13 DUTIES AND PRECAUTIONS
13. (1) Every employer shall take every precaution that is reasonable in the circumstances to
(a) ensure the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace;
(b) provide and maintain equipment, machines, materials or things that are properly equipped with safety devices;
(c) provide such information, instruction, training, supervision and facilities as are necessary to the health or safety of the employees;
(d) ensure that the employees, and particularly the supervisors and foremen, are made familiar with any health or safety hazards that may be met by them at the workplace;
(e) ensure that the employees are made familiar with the proper use of all devices, equipment and clothing required for their protection; and
(f) conduct the employer's undertaking so that employees are not exposed to health or safety hazards as a result of the undertaking.
(2) Every employer shall
(a) consult and co-operate with the joint occupational health and safety committee, where such a committee has been established at the workplace, or the health and safety representative, where one has been selected at the workplace;
(b) co-operate with any person performing a duty imposed or exercising a power conferred by this Act or the regulations;
(c) provide such additional training of committee members or the representative as may be prescribed by the regulations;
(d) comply with this Act and the regulations and ensure that employees at the workplace comply with this Act and the regulations; and
(e) where an occupational health and safety policy or occupational health and safety program is required pursuant to this Act or the regulations, establish the policy or program.
(3) The employer at a subsea coal mine shall provide such additional resources or information for the committee as may be prescribed by the regulations.
[N.S. 2007, c. 14, s. 7; 2010, c. 66, s. 5]
17. (1) Every employee, while at work, shall
(a) take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances to protect the employee's own health and safety and that of other persons at or near the workplace;
(b) co-operate with the employer and with the employee's fellow employees to protect the employee's own health and safety and that of other persons at or near the workplace;
(c) take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances to ensure that protective devices, equipment or clothing required by the employer, this Act or the regulations are used or worn;
(d) consult and co-operate with the joint occupational health and safety committee, where such a committee has been established at the workplace, or the health and safety representative, where one has been selected at the workplace;
(e) co-operate with any person performing a duty or exercising a power conferred by this Act or the regulations; and
(f) comply with this Act and the regulations.
(2) Where an employee believes that any condition, device, equipment, machine, material or thing or any aspect of the workplace is or may be dangerous to the employee's health or safety or that of any other person at the workplace, the employee shall
(a) immediately report it to a supervisor;
(b) where the matter is not remedied to the employee's satisfaction, report it to the committee or the representative, if any; and
(c) where the matter is not remedied to the employee's satisfaction after the employee reports in accordance with clauses (a) and (b), report it to the Division.
27. (1) Where
(a) five or more employees are regularly employed by an employer other than a constructor or contractor;
(b) five or more employees are regularly employed directly by a constructor or contractor, not including employees for whose services the constructor or contractor has contracted;
(c) the regulations require an occupational health and safety policy; or
(d) an officer so orders,
the employer shall prepare and review, at least annually, a written occupational health and safety policy, in consultation with the committee or representative, if any.
(2) Where this Act or the regulations do not require there to be a committee at a workplace, consultation on the development of the policy shall be carried out by the employer and shall include discussion of the proposed policy at one or more workplace health and safety meetings involving the employees.
(3) The policy shall express the employer's commitment to occupational health and safety and shall include
(a) the reasons for the employer's commitment to health and safety;
(b) the commitment of the employer to co-operate with the employees in pursuing occupational health and safety; and
(c) the responsibilities of the employer, supervisors and other employees in fulfilling the commitment required pursuant to clause (b).
[In force July 1, 1997]
28. (1) Where
(a) twenty or more employees are regularly employed by an employer other than a constructor or contractor;
(b) twenty or more employees are regularly employed directly by a constructor or contractor, not including employees for whose services the constructor or contractor has contracted; or
(c) the regulations require an occupational health and safety program,
the employer shall establish and maintain a written occupational health and safety program, in consultation with the committee or representative, if any, that is adapted to the circumstances of the organization for the purpose of implementing the employer's policy, this Act and the regulations.
(2) The program shall include
(a) provision for the training and supervision of employees in matters necessary to their health and safety and the health and safety of other persons at the workplace;
(b) provision for the preparation of written work procedures required to implement safe and healthy work practices, including those required pursuant to this Act, the regulations or by order of an officer, and identification of the types of work for which the procedures are required at the employer's workplace;
(c) provision for the establishment and continued operation of a committee required pursuant to this Act, including maintenance of records of membership, rules of procedure, access to a level of management with authority to resolve health and safety matters and any information required under this Act or the regulations to be maintained in relation to a committee;
(d) provision for the selection and functions of a representative where required pursuant to this Act, including provision for access by the representative to a level of management with authority to resolve health and safety matters;
(e) a hazard identification system that includes
(i) evaluation of the workplace to identify potential hazards,
(ii) procedures and schedules for regular inspections,
(iii) procedures for ensuring the reporting of hazards and the accountability of persons responsible for the correction of hazards, and
(iv) identification of the circumstances where hazards must be reported by the employer to the committee or representative, if any, and the procedures for doing so;
(f) a system for workplace occupational health and safety monitoring, prompt follow-up and control of identified hazards;
(g) a system for the prompt investigation of hazardous occurrences to determine their causes and the actions needed to prevent recurrences;
(h) maintenance of records and statistics, including reports of occupational health and safety inspections and occupational health and safety investigations, with provision for making them available to persons entitled to receive them pursuant to this Act; and
(i) provision for monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of the program.
(3) The employer shall make available a copy of the program
(a) to the committee or representative, if any; and
(b) on request, to an employee at the workplace.
- Assembling the Pieces Toolkit – A guide for implementing the CSA Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (free e-course):
- Being a Mindful Employee: An Orientation to Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (free e-course)
- Employee Assistance Program
- Mental Health – How to Address and Support
- Mental Health – Recognizing Psychological Health and Safety Hazards
- Mental Health (landing page)
- Workplace Health and Well-being – Comprehensive Workplace Health and Safety Program