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Mental health in the workplace requires special considerations for youth. Here’s why.

April 13, 2021

By: Gayle Aradanas 

Mental health can affect everyone. In fact, 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental health problem or illness each year. 

There are many social and genetic factors that contribute to mental health issues. But this generation’s youth face unique circumstances that can worsen their experience with mental illness, especially in the workplace. 

We are a cohort of young people who are hyper-aware of issues that unfold across the globe. We have grown up in a society where we create and maintain connections online. 

Constant distractions and mounting pressures

As a result, our focus is often distracted through notifications, emails, and constant stream news alerts on our phones and computers. The struggle to keep up with balancing our lives online while keeping our sanity in check can be overwhelming.   

These constant reminders are pressuring us to solve and stand up for issues that we care about, alongside the pressures to succeed at work in a post-pandemic economy.

As young people in this era, we’re also feeling the generational burdens that need to be addressed and fixed. These include current issues like climate change, racism, poverty, and inequality. 

An article published in 2020 states, “With algorithms of highly addicting social media, being constantly plugged into our devices could help us stay connected to our friends and family, but it also makes us susceptible to serious mental health issues as well.”

Rising cases and rising costs in mental health 

And the issue is getting worse. Hospitalizations in young people have seen a marked increase in the past ten years. 

Between 2008–2009 and 2018–2019, there was a 61 per cent increase in emergency department visits and a 60 per cent increase in hospitalizations for mental disorders in children and youth in Canada.

It also costs the Canadian government $50 billion per year on mental health and related issues. 

From an employment standpoint, the lack of mental health support can affect a young person’s ability to grow and perform in the workplace. This can cause a vicious cycle of unemployment, with youth being marginalized from opportunities to build their skills and confidence as working professionals. 

Without proper mental health support and accommodation from employers, youth experiencing mental health concerns will further suffer from their illness and stigma. 

Support in the workplace requires a preventative approach

There are many things employers can do – or build on – to protect the mental health and safety of their employees. 

Employers can start with recommendations from The Government of Canada. In addition to that, employers can do the following: 

  • Mental health support incentives – therapy or counselling service
  • Workshops to destigmatize mental illness and prioritize self-care
  • Workplace team building on support and encouragement – safe spaces to talk

Mental health support in the workplace equals a stronger youth workforce

Studies have shown that employers who make these short and long term investments in their employees will see better engagement, morale, satisfaction, retention and productivity. These investments can also reduce absenteeism, grievances, health costs, medical leave and workplace injury.  

As youth, we need to know that our well-being is a priority in the workplace. We shouldn’t feel the need to say sorry or be ashamed if we need a day or time off for our mental health. 

We also need to be in environments that foster caring and on teams that celebrate us when we’re doing a good job. 

Because one day, today’s youth will be the leaders of tomorrow’s workforce. We need the right foundations to build a better world for the next generation. 

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