By Dr. Robbie Babins-Wagner, CEO of Calgary Counselling Centre and Adam Legge, President of the Business Council of Alberta as published in the Calgary Herald
Whether you’re the leader of an organization, a new grad, or a seasoned oilsands worker, the past three years have not been easy for any of us.
The pandemic has sparked loneliness, isolation, stress, an increase in alcohol or substance use, and ongoing economic uncertainty that have together deteriorated our mental health. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Anxiety and depression are not as visible, or as openly discussed, as a runny nose or cough. These mental health issues are like icebergs floating in the water. Lurking below the surface is a larger problem.
The World Health Organization found worldwide levels of anxiety and depression increased by 25 per cent during the first year of the pandemic. Recent StatsCan data shows more than seven out of 10 Canadians report being negatively impacted by COVID-19, with nearly a quarter of Canadians screening positive for anxiety or depression.
We have a mental health crisis on our hands, and we’re especially worried about men and boys.
Research shows men are much less likely than women to report mental health issues and seek help. They tend to wait until things are incredibly bleak before getting treatment. At the Calgary Counselling Centre, a third of male clients turn to counselling for a problem that has been ongoing for more than five years. This is especially troubling, as the sooner someone gets help, the faster and better the results.
Men account for more than 75 per cent of suicides across the province. Stigma and a lack of openness, both of which act as barriers to seeking help for mental well being, are more common in men than women.
One of the places this rubber hits the road is in the workplace. Thankfully, attitudes have evolved dramatically, and mental health is a much more common conversation in the office, at the jobsite, or on the lease. But too few workers seek help, and fewer still seek it early. Professions seen as tough, rugged, or highly competitive can be particularly susceptible — often with other exacerbating factors like remote and isolated work.
Some great advancement is being seen in construction and trades, where organizations have committed to addressing mental health on their job sites. From implementing buddy-up programs between peers to active efforts from leadership to set an example and start conversations, breaking the stigma in our workplaces is paramount to encouraging improved mental health for both men and women.
Office workers, while more likely to take mental health leaves, may worry about being treated differently when returning to work, and fear a change in behaviour from co-workers if they admit to their struggles. In addition to the human impact, there is a real economic cost.
In Canada, it’s estimated the annual cost of depression is $32.3 billion. Depression is the most common mental health issue. It’s also the most treatable, meaning we don’t have to simply accept these costs.
While we’ve all gotten used to taking a few minutes to swab our nose or throat when we feel physically off, we’re now asking all Albertans — especially men — to take a simple step to check in on their emotional well being.
Take three minutes out of your day and go to AreYouFeelingOK.com. There you’ll find a free, anonymous quiz that assesses your mental health and provides recommendation for next steps, including a list of resources where you can get help.
The Calgary Counselling Centre offers this accessible screening tool in six languages every October as part of the annual National Depression Screening Day initiative.
Why? Depression can affect anyone, but it can also be treated. Anyone can develop the skills needed to overcome it. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you’ll see results that improve your life.
If you’re reading this, send the test to family and friends, share it on social media, or pop it in your group chat. Start the journey to getting one step better. Help normalize talking about — and checking in on — our mental health. Doing so could save a life, including your own.
Feature image: PHOTO BY MENUHA /Getty Images/iStockphoto