In Canada, the unemployment rate for individuals with mental illness stands at 75 per cent. There is a need to address the growing issue of mental health in Canada, and employers need to be a part of the solution.
By taking proactive measures and implementing meaningful strategies to provide support and resources for individuals struggling with mental health challenges, employers can foster a more inclusive and compassionate environment.
Techtalent.ca sat down with Timothy Lang, the President & CEO of Youth Employment Services (YES), Canada’s leading youth employment service provider, to talk about its new program launch WorkAbility, helping employers retain and hire people with mental health disabilities.
What does YES do? and How does WorkAbility integrate into the services YES already offers?
Youth Employment Services (YES) is the Canadian leader in providing life-changing employment training and job placement for youth with currently 25 programs available.
Over the last decade, we have seen a sharp increase of people with mental health concerns. To address this, YES has launched several initiatives that focus on providing mental health support such as a partnership with The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), a specialized curriculum to train organizations across Canada, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as a resource for employers.
To expand our suite of available resources for employee mental health, we launched the YES WorkAbility (YWA) Project. As a free, three-year program, YWA aims to empower employers to create inclusive and accessible workplaces for individuals with mental health disabilities.
Can you provide an overview of YES’ new WorkAbility program and its main objectives?
The YWA (YES WorkAbility) project, a national employer education and training initiative, aims to empower employer partners by providing a range of free activities. These activities include personalized coaching, comprehensive training sessions, and invaluable human resources support. Our ultimate mission with the YWA project is to not only foster employer awareness but also elevate the visibility of individuals with mental health disabilities. Additionally, we strive to advocate for the importance of benefits that come with hiring, retaining, and promoting persons with mental health disabilities within the workplace, ultimately creating an inclusive and diverse environment.
Why is it important for employers to participate in programs like this to improve mental health inclusivity in the workplace?
Mental health concerns are wide ranging. Whether someone is dealing with anxiety, depression, or something else, everybody experiences a mental health disability, on some level, at some point in their working lives. It is important that people feel supported from leaders and colleagues during trying times.
What exactly will YWA teach employers about mental health? How will it build employer awareness, for example? Is YES sending people into the workplace to train managers on how to ensure success with employees suffering from a mental illness, for example?
The YWA project aims to train employers on best hiring practices when it comes to people with mental health challenges. For the long-term, the goal is to ensure that employers have the foundational knowledge and resources to advance and retain employees who disclose mental health challenges.
The program will also highlight the benefits of hiring persons with mental health disabilities, as well as specific topics such as accommodations and disclosures, adopting a multi-generational approach, recognizing concern, guidelines for supervisors, and more.
What will the program look like? How will it be delivered? Is it a series of workshops, attended by managers at the company?
With the ultimate goal of improving inclusivity for people with mental health disabilities in the workplace, the YWA project is customizable and can be different from each employer.
Among the several resources that employer partners can customize in their YWA project are info sessions and workshops, which can be delivered either in-person or online.
The YWA Project can also support employers’ hiring efforts, with the aim to fill vacant positions with candidates who disclose mental health concerns. We also plan to facilitate roundtable events to encourage open discussions among employers, individuals with mental health disabilities, and other stakeholders
Furthermore, we’re establishing a committee of at least five employers and five individuals with lived experience of mental health disabilities. This group will play a crucial role in informing the project, adhering to the principle of “nothing about us without us.” They will assist in developing a mental health pledge for employers to sign, committing to the hiring of individuals with mental health disabilities.
As part of the YWA Project, employers also have access to an online toolkit, free to download on the website. Employers can use the toolkit as a guide when developing policies to promote inclusivity in the workplace.
What types of employers is WorkAbility targeting, and how will it tailor its services to meet their specific needs? Do/can employees at other businesses reach out to experts within your organization for assistance?
WorkAbility is accessible to employers of all types, spanning various sectors. YES will collaborate closely with each employer to create customized programs tailored to the organization’s size and available resources, ensuring effective fulfillment of their unique requirements.
What outcomes do you hope to see through implementing the WorkAbility program?
Through the implementation of the WorkAbility program, we aim to initially achieve these key outcomes:
- Training 500 Employers: Our primary goal is to provide training and education to at least 500 employers to increase their awareness and understanding of hiring individuals with mental health disabilities.
- Hiring 120 Individuals with MH Disabilities: We intend to host and support multiple job fairs, with the goal of 120 individuals with mental health disabilities hired.
- Improved Policies and Processes: We aim to see the development and adoption of new workplace policies and processes that support and accommodate individuals with mental health disabilities.
Anything else you would like to add?
To learn more about how the YWA Project is helping employers build more inclusive workplaces for people with mental health disabilities, visit our website here.