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Superior Mental Wellness @ Work: Results of a comprehensive employee mental health project in northwestern Ontario

Mental health

The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) indicates that across Canada, the self-rated health of Canadians declines from the most urban regions of the nation to the most rural and remote areas. Geographic location is thus a determinant of health1. This survey also revealed that, individuals living in rural and northern areas have higher than average rates of major depressive disorder. Compared to the provincial average, residents of Northern Ontario have higher self-reported rates of "fair or poor" mental health and depression1. Medication use is elevated in northern communities, and the hospitalization rate for Northern Ontario is twice that of the provincial rate1. Another recent analysis of the need for services and supports in rural and northern Ontario revealed that compared to urban areas, individuals living in northern and rural areas are in greater need of psychotherapy or counselling2.

To address the issue of mental health wellbeing in Northwestern Ontario, a research team led by Dr. Vicki Kristman and her research team developed workshops aimed to create workplace environments that reduce psychological hazards and maintain positive mental health for employees. These workshops were held in Thunder Bay and across the District. In order to achieve these aims the Superior Mental Wellness @ Work Standard to Action workshop were designed by the team. Information about the National Standard (CSA: Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Z1003) is provided to participants through training sessions, a speaker series and a networking campaign.

The research component of this project will evaluate the effectiveness of these approaches using a web-based survey and focus groups. In April of 2018 all participants had completed the workshops and the final surveys. The research team is currently analyzing the data and will share results of the overall program evaluation. The results will also identity the facilitators, barriers and needs of worksite leaders to enhance employee mental wellness.


1. Mitura, V. and R.D. Bollman. "The Health of Rural Canadians: A rural-urban comparison of health indicators." Rural and Small Town Canada Analysis Bulletin. 4 no.6 (2003). Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 21-006-XIE.

2. Canadian Population Health Initiative. How Healthy Are Rural Canadians? An assessment of their health status and health determinants. Canadian Institute for Health Information. (2006).