Provincial funding of $1.7 million will help Workplace Safety North (WSN) implement mental health training and resources for Northern Ontario mining and forestry workers.
Announced on Feb. 14, the funds will go toward a three-year program that will provide in-person and online training programs for people working in those industries.
It includes an online portal where workers and employers can access mental health tools and resources 24 hours, seven days a week, as well as free resources and awareness sessions for small businesses.
“Based on the effects of the pandemic on mental health in the workplace and at home, workplace mental health needs to be at the forefront of Ontario workplace safety,” said Paul Andre, president and CEO of Workplace Safety North (WSN), in a news release.
“That is why WSN has a team of accredited psychological health and safety advisors available to consult with clients and help create psychologically safe and healthy workplaces. This funding will help us expand critical resources and support to workers who need it most.”
The services are aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental health challenges so that workers will feel comfortable asking for help when they need it, the release said.
“This is especially important in the mining and forestry sectors, where mental health and psychological concerns can be left unaddressed,” it notes.
According to the results of a 2019 study that examined the mental health of miners with Vale's Ontario operations, mine workers are susceptible to mental health challenges including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Inadequate sleep and burnout are among the contributing factors to poor mental health, according to the study.
In partnership with the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH) at Laurentian University, WSN will track the efficacy of the training and resources.
Early results from respondents who received training between October and December of last year indicate that 95.7 per cent of participants felt their knowledge and awareness had increased, while 96.7 per cent said they changed their practice or behaviour as a result of receiving services.
“Our miners and forestry workers operate in challenging environments day in and day out to deliver materials that communities across Ontario rely on,” Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said in the release.
“While these jobs provide rewarding, meaningful careers, we need to acknowledge the mental toll they can take. That is why our government has invested in a comprehensive mental health program with a full suite of supports. Every worker, no matter the profession, needs to know that help is always a phone call away.”
WSN is an independent not-for-profit that provides provincewide ministry-approved workplace health and safety training and services for the mining and forest products industries.