If you walk through St. Joseph’s Health Centre, you’ll find images of blue elephants on certain office doors. To visitors, this probably means nothing. But to staff members, each elephant means there’s a leader inside that office specially trained to discuss mental health and ready to direct them to the right supports and resources when needed.
This is part of the national Elephant in the Room campaign, developed by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, which St. Joseph’s recently joined. Using the blue elephant as an identifier, the campaign creates a safe space for staff to literally and figuratively discuss the elephant in the room.
“Unfortunately, we find that mental health isn’t very easily addressed,” explained Virona Ibrahim, wellness co-ordinator at St. Joseph’s.
“It’s always easy for us to do programs around physical wellness and healthy eating, but it’s hard to get people to talk about mental health. This was our way of making the conversation approachable.”
So far, 60 St. Joseph’s leaders have been trained on mental health in the workplace and are now equipped to be able to recognize when a staff member may need support. They’ve also learned how to positively and supportively engage their staff on this topic, and generally promote mental health at work.
“The first thing that came to mind when I heard of this campaign was the World Health Organization’s recent finding that listed depression as the number one cause for years lived with disability across the globe,” said Dr. Jose Silveira, chief and medical director of the Mental Health and Addictions Program at St. Joseph’s.
“Early identification of mental health issues while somebody is at work is very important, especially in a health-care setting given the psychological strain associated with providing care. It’s particularly important that health-care providers are healthy emotionally and psychologically in order to be able to provide the right support to our patients.”
The Elephant in the Room Campaign is expected to expand to Providence and St. Michael’s.
“Mental health affects everyone in their own way, so if we can just get people to talk about it, I think more people will start seeking help,” said Ibrahim.
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