Opening Minds targets workplace mental health

Opening Minds is helping employers and employees reduce stigma and promote mental health in workplace settings.

This month, a program called “The Working Mind: Workplace Mental Health and Wellness” will launch, starting with three organizations in Nova Scotia.

The Working Mind is based on The Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR), a program developed by the Department of National Defense (DND). This program emerged out of the Canadian military’s need for mental resiliency in its soldiers who were coming out of stressful situations and environments.

“Extensive research and evaluation has shown that the DND program is successful in reducing stigma and generating good mental health, and has now been adapted for a civilian workplace setting by the Mental Health Commission of Canada,” says Michael Pietrus, Director of Opening Minds.

The main component of R2MR is the Mental Health Continuum Model. This model categorizes symptoms of good to poor mental health under a four colour continuum: green (healthy), yellow (reacting), orange (injured), and red (ill).

“It works well as a stigma reduction tool because it removes the labels,” says Pietrus. “Rather than saying that someone has depression or anxiety disorder, what the colours do is allow you to talk – in a neutral way – about mental health without labelling you. If someone says ‘I’m orange today’ you know they have a series of characteristics but aren’t necessarily associated with a diagnosis.”

The Working Mind expands on the DND’s program by including a module focused on dispelling the myths surrounding mental disorders and reducing the associated stigma. It will also include custom videos of people with lived experience of mental illness and stigma in a workplace context.

Starting September 23, a trainer from the DND will begin working with 30 managers from the Government of Nova Scotia, the Capital District Health Authority and Nova Scotia Community College. After completing the week-long course, these new trainers will be equipped to offer it to co-workers in their respective organizations. From these beginnings, the MHCC’s Opening Minds hopes to advance the program to workplace settings across the country.

In June of 2012, more than 700 delegates from 29 countries attended the MHCC’s Together Against Stigma: Changing How We See Mental Illness – the world’s largest anti-stigma conference.

A compilation of the knowledge that came out of the conference is now available online as an interactive flip book. More than a textual record of the event, the document includes videos of keynote speakers such as actor Glenn Close and stigma experts like Norman Sartorius and Pat Corrigan.