“There is a culture of resiliency in the Canadian oil patch, and people tend to pride themselves on their ability to find solutions in tough times. This could translate into heightened pressure on workers to keep their emotions under control and to themselves” Alberta Oil
The oil and gas industry is a high-pressure environment compared to many others, with stressful long hours requiring constant alertness set in isolated locations. With mistakes costing lives, workers can feel overwhelmed yet unable to express themselves. Weeks away from home and the people they feel comfortable around can enhance these feelings, building up until their mental health deteriorates. Being able to share thoughts and feelings with employers due to worry about what they will say to- and about- them, as well as how people may act toward them can also hinder their likelihood to seek help. In many cases, support is not available even if it pursued.
‘’Only employers and employees working together can make the changes that are fundamentally needed’’ Michael Kirby,
Partners for Mental Health
Part of the problem is in identifying mental illnesses. Not only for employees questioning their own mental states, but for employers unsure of what to do when they notice issues and knowing how to cope. With mental illness costing the Canadian economy $51 billion annually, effective support should be given to- or put in place by companies, not only reducing this figure, but providing employees with the help they need.
‘’Whether we’re managers, human resources, union reps or even co-workers, most of us don’t have the training or the knowledge about how to help someone. They don’t know where to begin, they don’t know where to apply limited resources or time. And so, they’re not sure where to get started’’
Mary Ann Baynton, Mindful Employer Canada
Fortunately, there are various mental health charities raising awareness among employees and companies alike. Not Myself Today, a campaign run by Partners for Mental Health has already had over 320 companies and organizations take part. The campaign aims to promote mental health within these places, creating a ‘safe, open and supportive work environment’, ‘reducing stigma’ and giving employees a, ‘better understanding of one’s own mental health’. They’ve seen much success, with 93% of companies stating the campaign increased mental health awareness, 89% claiming it started an open dialogue about mental health among employees and 88% agreeing it raised awareness of ready-available mental health resources. 78% also agreed it has helped to create a more understanding and supportive work environment. This shows how beneficial a mental health charity can be. It also suggests how duplication of this campaign across the oil and gas industry could be effective too.
The fact these charities and campaigns are needed highlight their importance – not enough is being done to combat mental health issues. It is estimated that improved treatment of depression could grow Canada’s economy by as much as $32.3 billion annually, and for anxiety, by up to $17.3 billion (The Conference Board of Canada). This impact is huge and shows the benefits for companies and its employees. Making use of mental health charities can clearly have a positive impact, and where possible, companies should put additional support in place.
‘’The reality is, in our post-modern economy, many Canadians in the workplace aren’t lifting heavy things anymore. What they’re valued for is their minds. And we need to do more to protect and promote the health of people’s minds in the workplace, because it’s when people get into trouble with their thinking and their feeling that it interferes with their ability to be productive, to be collegial, and to be at their best in terms of their functioning’’
David Goldbloom, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health