HALIFAX, N.S. – Linda Corkum was surprised to receive the phone call letting her know she’d been recognized as a champion of mental health.
The executive director of the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association (NSTSA) will be travelling to Ottawa in May to receive the award as the 2018 Champion of Mental Health in the Workplace Mental Health category from the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH).
May will also mark the one-year anniversary of the Working Mind Program at NSTSA, whose introduction inspired Corkum’s nomination for the honor.
Working Mind is a one-day seminar for those holding management roles in the industry, and a half-day version for employees, designed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and promoting mental wellness and communication about mental health issues in the workplace.
It also aims to help connect those in management with resources to better help employees who may be experiencing anxiety, depression, or coping with recent trauma.
Corkum says she is honored by the recognition and hopes it brings more awareness to the need for programs like Working Mind to help make metal health less stigmatized at work.
“This is something all Canadians need in their workplaces,” she says. “We are just starting to realize the importance of it, especially in our trucking industry, that everyone needs this. We need to understand the signs… how we can help individuals, and how individuals can help themselves.”
The NSTSA says statistics show that with about 500,000 Canadians missing work each week because of a mental health related concern, the annual cost can reach up to $51 billion nation-wide.
The program is just one of a few occupational health and safety offerings from the NSTSA, but Corkum says the group hopes to add more mental health topics to regular seminars offered outside Working Mind, as requests for information increase.
NSTSA staff went through the program a year ago before offering it to those in the Nova Scotia trucking community. The organization now has 10 facilitators trained to offer the course.
Programming that helps connect fleets and their employees to resources is especially important because many smaller companies don’t offer extensive health benefits or employee assistance programs (EAP), say Corkum.
“They don’t know what to do or who to call,” she says. “We know that truck drivers are at a greater risk for mental illness.”
The programming not only helps managers and employees recognize the signs of mental distress in others, it offers lessons on how to address those symptoms if employees recognize them in themselves.
“We have had a very positive response. We had one company send all their workers,” Corkum says. “The owner of the company noticed a difference in them the minute they walked back through the office at work. They saw it as an effective team-building exercise because they were then able to talk about what was troubling them in a way that is not then taken in a negative manner.”
It was one of the companies that has been through the program that nominated Corkum for the award without her knowledge. She said she was shocked to get the phone call saying she had won the honor and was grateful to the person who put her name forward.
Corkum says the number one goal of the program, which is offered strictly on a cost-recovery basis, is to help increase the communication around mental health in the workplace, reducing the stigma for those that are suffering.
“There are drivers that come in and have never talked about their feeling before. They didn’t know that they could or should because they thought it might impede their employment.”
This story has been updated from an earlier version to incorporate additional information.
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