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Empowering Leaders to Support Employee Mental Health Through Workplace Training

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

5 best practices to help your team thrive in the face of adversity.

Author: Jordan Friesen, President of Mindset Mental Health Strategy

If your company is actively focused on supporting the mental health of its employees, chances are you’ve prioritized training and education as a core component of your wellness strategy.

And for good reason! In 2019, Deloitte analyzed the ROI of comprehensive mental health strategies and found that training, specifically for leaders, was the primary driver of positive returns. An earlier systematic review and meta-analysis from 201

With 70% of Canadian employees concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplace, leadership training is more important than ever. If your organization is considering implementing mental health training practises, here are five tips to help set your team up for success and make a positive impact in the workplace:

1. Provide clear guidance.

Managers should be provided with clear guidance on how to support employees who are experiencing mental health issues. This includes information on how to recognize signs of distress, how to approach employees with a caring conversation, and how to direct them to support or provide accommodations. Tailor specific information on supports and accommodation processes for your organization (not just general principles). Note: the purpose of training isn’t to make your managers experts in mental health conditions, but rather to help them identify signs of struggle in themselves and their team members and encourage others to seek professional help when needed.

2. Offer interactive training.

Interactive training methods, such as role-playing scenarios, can be effective in helping managers develop confidence needed to approach employees who are struggling. Other options include the use of group discussions and scenario-based learning to help the concepts hit home. At a minimum, ensure managers can share any experiences they’ve had supporting struggling employees and ask questions relevant to situations they might be dealing with currently (keeping details anonymous, of course).

3. Incorporate lived experience.

One of the few ways to reduce stigma related to mental illness is through something called “contact-based education” – a fancy way of saying that people need to hear from those that have experienced a mental illness in the workplace. You can accomplish this in many ways, like having an instructor share their experience, using a pre-recorded video, or having an internal mental health champion attend the training to share their story and perspective. When doing this, make sure you provide a trigger warning, and ensure participants know how to access support if they need it.

4. Provide follow-up and ongoing support.

Training like this should never be a “one-and-done” exercise. It’s a good idea to follow up with participants a few weeks after the training to see if they have any questions, knowledge gaps, or have been able to apply any of the skills or knowledge from the training. Plan for a brief refresher training annually to ensure the concepts stay top-of-mind, and frequently share key takeaways or reference materials throughout the year.

5. Measure the impact.

As these are still early days when it comes to understanding the long-term impact of this type of training it’s best to create a measurement strategy of your own to help determine the impact you’re making. A pre/post knowledge and competency questionnaire for participants is a great starting point to gauge the immediate benefit from the training. Longer-term, look at key metrics like EAP usage (and the number who were referred by a manager), disability leave, and absenteeism. These are all metrics likely to be positively influenced by management training, and contribute to the positive ROI we mentioned earlier, too!

By following these best practices, you can set your team up with a mental health training program that will help them thrive in the face of adversity and offer support to team members when they need it.

Jordan Friesen is the Founder and President of Mindset Mental Health Strategy. He uses his skills to assist organizations who want to take progressive action to support the mental health of their workforce as a competitive advantage and business imperative for the future of work. Jordan is a registered occupational therapist and holds a Master of Occupational Therapy from the University of Manitoba.

Designed to inspire action, our Headway Program helps business leaders take the next step toward creating mentally healthy workplaces. Navigating this complex topic can be tough. Our team can help with resources, tools and a tailored plan based on your unique needs. Email us at


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