October 8, 2021

The other COVID crisis we need to be talking about: mental health

Many of those you work with—colleagues, employees, even suppliers—are not OK right now. They are stretched to the limit mentally and emotionally, probably more than you realize. If you were in a video call with four team members this week, chances are that one of those people is experiencing mental health challenges. Maybe you are too. According to the latest release from Statistics Canada, one in four adults is reporting recent symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s up from one in five in regular times. That means 221,000 additional Albertans are experiencing mental health struggles.

As serious as the COVID-19 crisis is, and it is very serious, we are also in a second health crisis: a mental health crisis. The unrelenting pressure of case counts, deaths, restrictions, lockdowns, zoom calls, childcare, homeschooling, isolation and overall health and safety has taken its toll. On top of all that, the realities of the fourth wave in Alberta, when many of us had hoped the worst may have been behind us, have added a heavy additional weight. I know I’ve felt it.

One place where this crisis is particularly evident is in the workplace.

The latest Mental Health Index reports that the overall mental well-being of the working population has plummeted since the start of the pandemic. In fact, the percentage of the working population that is considered to be in the high-risk mental health category more than doubled, up from 13 to 34 per cent.

This has led many of the business leaders I work with to conclude that risks to the mental health of their employees are significant, and have the potential to be highly impactful to the individual and their well-being.

Mental health in the workplace has been a growing focus for years, as business leaders have increasingly realized that significant numbers of their staff are experiencing mental health issues, and that actively addressing that challenge makes for stronger workplaces and better business results. However, many CEOs tell me, at this moment, they are dealing with the most complex mental health environment they have ever experienced in their careers.

The Stockdale Paradox helps explain why this wave may have pushed many over the edge; the certainty that challenging times will eventually pass is essential to overcoming them, but fixating on a near-term date can be disastrous. Many of us felt the worst was behind us only to have more challenges confront us with an unknown end date.

All this means we need to double our efforts in the focus on mental health and well-being. We need to do more to increase awareness, have more discussion, and provide additional accessible tools to ensure those long-term mental impacts don’t persist longer than the health crisis.

This is National Depression Screening week. Depression is one of the most common mental health issues and it is also incredibly treatable. Many people feel better and less anxious after a few sessions. If one in four of the people we are working with every day is experiencing issues like depression right now, it makes good human sense, and good business sense, to help them move past that.

So, this week, check in on those you know and work with. Push through the awkward.

As it does each year, the Calgary Counselling Centre has made available a free, short, anonymous online questionnaire to help identify symptoms of depression, and point those at risk toward a positive step they can take.

This week, take the quiz at, and encourage others to do so too—even more so if you are in a position of leadership. Attend a free event at the Calgary Library. Send it around to your organization, your friends and family. Ensure that there are resources available for people who need to get better. Doing this may make more of a difference than you could ever know. And we need every win we can get during times like these.

As appeared in the Calgary Herald

Adam Legge is president of the Business Council of Alberta.

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