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Sobeys partners with CCHF to bring “A Family of Support: Child & Youth Mental Health Initiative”


In May 2021 we celebrated the two-year anniversary of Headway, a workplace mental health movement Sklar Wilton & Associates launched in memory of our founder, Luke Sklar. In this blog series, we’ll showcase success stories from our Headway members and highlight the specific actions they’ve taken to elevate the importance of employee mental health. We hope their stories will inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Mental health became even more evident and important in 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit and companies across Canada were faced with the biggest workplace mental health crisis they had ever experienced. And business leaders stepped up! We’ve seen some incredible actions from our Headway members in their commitment to prioritize the wellbeing of their employees.

In August 2020, Sobeys Inc and The Sobey Foundation announced a ground-breaking partnership with Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations (CCHF) to address the need for early interventions in child and youth mental health. A Family of Support: Child and Youth Mental Health Initiative funds local mental health programs to support specific provincial needs at 13 Canadian children’s hospitals. This one-of-kind partnership harnesses the momentum of a collective, national goal to deliver tangible results in communities across the country.

Facing a National Challenge Canadian children and youth are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. The last decade has seen a staggering 61 per cent increase in children and youth visiting emergency departments for mental health conditions, and the COVID-19 health pandemic has further exacerbated the problem as kids face uncertainty in their day-to-day lives. This means most children and youth facing mental illness cannot or do not access services until their struggle escalates to the point of crisis. Over time, A Family of Support will:

  • Reduce wait times for patients starting or transitioning between services;

  • Implement early intervention programs, thereby reducing the need for crisis-stage treatments, emergency department visits and inpatient admissions;

  • Develop new, evidence-based treatments for mental health challenges; And improve patients’ and families’ satisfaction with mental health care in Canada.

While each children’s hospital foundation is applying a regional lens to tackle mental health needs most relevant to their communities, all partnership work is rooted in either:

  • Improving care to shift from a focus of acute care to intervention; OR

  • Education and training to empower families expand education/training for mental health leaders, pediatricians, and frontline healthcare workers and to establish mental health literacy across the wider healthcare system.

The program has been successful to date The partnership was announced on August 26, 2020, and positively received from Sobeys teammates and Canadians nationwide. In addition to the ability to help families across Canada, Sobeys saw direct positive results for their business in championing this cause.

  • The first time that Sobeys entire company and its 127,000 teammates united under one cause

  • More than 15 innovative programs have launched or are being expanded across Canada

  • Strong media results for the program: over 260 earned media stories and 32M+ earned media impressions

  • Strong participation in the first in-store check-stand campaign in September. Together, retail teammates across 12 banners more than doubled the fundraising goal and raised $2.2 million for the cause.

  • The campaign achieved an average engagement rate of 9.5% (well above industry benchmark of 3%) truly resonating with Canadians

  • Delivered 112M+ social impressions

  • Since the launch, the HR team introduced several resources to support Sobeys fellow teammates in their own mental wellness journey

A Family of Support campaign for 2021 begins on September 16 and runs through to September 30. Check in out in your local Sobeys stores and support if you can.

Lessons Learned In reflecting on the success of the program launch, the Sobeys team was able to take a few key learnings to apply to their future plans. Real social change takes time – This past year has shown that the mental health space is incredibly complex. Implementing a partnership of this scale takes time, and in order to make lasting change through the investments, it will take several years to truly understand the impact that can be made in early interventions of child and youth mental health. Sobeys continues to learn from and be inspired by the tireless commitment of the frontline teams at children’s hospitals across Canada bringing these innovative programs to life. They are developing a robust measurement framework to track and understand progress over the next five years.

Keep the conversation going – Supporting mental health and wellness is pivotal to Sobeys’ values and, in a year when mental health was significantly challenged, the initiative was never more important. Although stigma regarding mental health continues to decrease, people are still reluctant to share their personal experiences. The goal is to create a safe space that allows people to share their own story, understand that help is possible and continue the conversation. They are leveraging all of their channels – internal and external – to keep the conversation going and demonstrate their commitment. Sharing lived experiences is critical.

We are inspired by Sobeys efforts to take mental well-being beyond their own company to create real change for children & youth in Canada and allow Canadians across the country to join them on their journey and offer support as well. This is a great example of launching an incredible initiative and learning as you go to understand how to increase your overall impact. We are excited to see the long term results of this program, both for the impacted families and for the Sobeys company. Thank you, Sobeys team, for sharing this incredible story with us.

Looking for more inspiration on how to bring change to your organization? We will continue sharing how our Headway members have prioritized mental wellbeing in their own workplaces in the hopes that it will help to inspire other leaders to do the same.  We know that only through strong commitment and bold action can we see real change.

  • Family of Support microsite with video: https://www.afamilyofsupport.com/

  • Family of Support TV spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69tAH-KRSfM

Learn more about  Headway, a movement to promote and support healthy minds at work. Download Headway resources and guides to help your workplace start the conversation about mental health.

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