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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Good On Lisa Raitt: Addressing Occupational Mental Health and Safety

"Too often people just suffer in silence. As Minister of Labour, I'm looking at a range of policy and program options to better address mental health challenges in the workplace."

  - Lisa Raitt, Canada's Minister of Labour

It's happening.  Slowly, agonizingly so, but as the idea of cognitive labour and mental fitness starts to gain hold, it's gaining momentum.

I have predicted elsewhere that a broad-based move towards mental fitness promotion, particularly as it relates to work and work performance, is on its way.  It has to be; the nature of labour (not to mention society) is shifting from repetitive, physical and quantity-based to creative, cognitive and innovation-based.  Just as work design at the end of the 19th Century impeded production by fostering sickness and injury, today's work design and motivational tools actually impede the type of production the market is looking for.  We need a proactive mental fitness strategy if we're to keep moving forward.

The Industrial Revolution fostered the labour movement, which in turn sparked the introduction of workplace health and safety and benefits like health care and sick leave.  It was good business, but it also had the advantage of improving productivity and employee satisfaction.  The Knowledge Economy similarly relies on cognitive function in new, demanding ways - to help people realize their full potential (providing greater returns for their employers), we have to start accommodating mental health.  There's a reason why we have a recognized mental health crisis now, when cognitive labour is in demand.

There's only one way forward and that's to break down the stigmatic silos around mental health, which in turn means re-evaluating the way we understand what the mind is and how our biology, environments and accommodations impact mental health/cognitive function.  It will be a challenging process that will make many feel uncomfortable, but it's the right thing to do from a policy, performance and moral perspective.

This goes beyond personal interest, beyond partisan interest, beyond mandate and even the limitations of ability we set for ourselves to this notion of something called the public good.

Lisa Raitt sums it up nicely: "Let's think beyond duty. Each and every one of us has a role to play in creating workplaces where diversity and special needs are accommodated and respected."

Kudos to people like Lisa Raitt, but also Don Drummond, Michael Kirby, Kevin Flynn, Christine Elliot, Gerrard Kennedy and the countless people who work and live with mental health challenges every day. 

Let's move forward together; more importantly, let's make sure we leave no one behind.

Am I hopeful?  Certainly - but that's because I understand the way cognition produces hope.

We're finally connecting the dots between stigma, mental health, health care, social growth, diversity, education, service delivery and innovation.  It's a good time to be alive.

UPDATE:  It should come as no surprise that Lisa Raitt has personal experience with mental illness.  This isn't an ooh-ahh, we must look at her differently thing; if she had diabetes, or developed cancer, or caught a cold, we wouldn't stigmatize her.  Nor should we now.

Sidebar - there's a funny thing where people advocate for causes that they know - I sit on the Board of Directors for an organization that helps children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and the vast majority of my co-Board Members have deaf family members.  As mental health/mental fitness becomes more normalized, I think we're going to see an increase in proactive advocacy, which is how it should be.


  1. Nice information is provided by you ,nowadays its quite necessary for any employer to hire any Workplace Health & Safety Consultant for his/her employees to ensure their safety from hazardous risks.