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Mental Illness Awareness Campaign Targets Employees

Armen Hareyan's picture

Employees who think that mental illness or depression may be an issue for them have new resources to help them.

Fact sheets, calendars and posters that focus on awareness and the need for early intervention were launched today, Oct. 2, as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week. They are part of the Department of Health's mental health strategy that started in 2005.

"Mental illness has become the number one workplace issue facing employers in Canada and we wanted managers, including those in government, to be more supportive of people suffering from depression," said Health Minister Chris d'Entremont. "Men in particular may not recognize the symptoms depression so we're hoping this campaign will alert them to the warning signs."

Part of the campaign is a testimonial interview with former Constable Fred Armitage that will play on television throughout the week. Two hundred and sixty-four managers, 3,800 employees at four pilot sites and, 100 businesses will receive office calendars with art submitted by mental health consumers including tips about how to improve mental health in the workplace.

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"I hope other men who may have depression and not realize it will see that this is a medical condition you can get under control with help," said Mr. Armitage, who received a recognition award at the launch.

Mental Illness Awareness Week is a national event that is focusing on the fact that nearly $14.4 billion is spent on mental health problems. Research shows there is a clear link between stress and depression making it clear that more education among employers is necessary.

About nine per cent of Nova Scotians report being depressed according to a survey done for Statistics Canada, and fewer than 40 per cent do something about it.

"With this commercial, website, calendar, fact sheets and tool kits we want to reduce the negative stigma about depression," said Linda Smith, Executive Director of the Mental Health Branch. "We're also hoping employers become aware of the issue and see the need to support of those at risk before it becomes a serious problem."

The materials are part of an award winning campaign by the Department of Health to educate Nova Scotians -- from teens to the elderly -- about the effects of mental illness on families, schools and workplaces.

The Department of Health developed the materials with input from people who have experienced mental health problems, psychologists, nurses and social workers as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations to provide more materials that will increase awareness.