Take care of ourselves – and one another – this holiday season

By Ken Johnston, Senior Vice President & CHRO Human Resources

iStock-474211028It is officially cold and flu season in Canada! My wife, Sue, is a family physician and she was sharing with me how busy it is at her clinic this time of year. I asked her if it was all seasonal colds and flu’s. I was surprised by her response. She told me that while there is certainly a spike in those types of visits, there is another ailment that seems to spike at this time of year – visits related to mental health.

During the holiday season, people can become very anxious with planning, travel, workload and financial worries. It is also a time when people tend to reflect on the loss of loved ones and when family stress can be at its highest. On one hand, I was saddened to think of so many people seeking treatment for mental health illnesses at this time of year. On the other hand, as Sue pointed out to me, it’s good that people are finally starting to feel comfortable speaking to their medical professionals about mental health. She reminded me that unlike the common cold, depression and anxiety can be treated very effectively, in a variety of medical and non-medical ways. It is the ongoing misinformation and stigma around mental health that is often the biggest barrier to treatment.

The reality is that mental health issues will touch virtually everyone in some way – regardless of gender, age, race or ethnicity. Everyday 500,000 Canadians are absent from work because of a mental health issue. One in five Canadians will experience some type of mental health related challenge each year and of those, only 6 per cent will actually seek or receive treatment because they may feel shame or fear judgement. On a global perspective, the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression alone will be the second-leading cause of disability worldwide, second only to heart disease. 7.5 million Canadians suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse or other such disorders each year. These statistics mean that we are all likely working with someone who is currently dealing with a mental health issue but who may feel unable or uncomfortable seeking help.

As we approach year-end, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, know that there is support available, and access that support when needed. With appropriate treatment and support, people with mental health challenges can function very effectively in the workplace and in society. In addition to support from your physician, Morneau Shepell, our Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provider offers various tools and resources that are confidential, available 24/7/365 and free to use:

Now for my commitment to you! I want everyone to know that our HR team and the overall Leadership team at Purolator are fully committed to addressing mental health issues as a top priority to help ensure the well-being of our employees. In the coming months we will be making meaningful progress to this commitment by launching a mandatory mental health awareness e-learning though our learning management system. We will also be providing additional tools and resources available for people managers to help support their teams around mental health. Our HR leaders have recently received advanced training in mental health awareness and support and we will continue to develop this capability.

I also personally commit to continue the conversation around mental health, bringing a broader awareness to the organization and working with my colleagues to break down the stigmas associated with mental health and mental illness. I hope you will join me in this effort!

The conversation with my wife inspired me to write this blog entry. Hopefully by sharing a little bit of information, and a personal commitment, some of you will feel just a little more comfortable addressing sensitive topics like this with family, friends or your doctor.

You’ve all put in a ton of effort to support our business throughout this busy holiday season; please make sure you put in more effort to take care of yourself and your family. And, if you have any tips on how to make the holidays “less stressful,” or resources that might help others, please share them here!




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