A long-term study aims to examine mental health in workplaces across northwestern Ontario.
Looking to study mental in the workplace and the mental health of workers, Lakehead University's Enhancing the Prevention of Injury and Disability at Work research institute is leading a new survey that will do that for people who live and work in Northwestern Ontario.
Vicki Kristman, the institute's director and senior scientist, and her team will head up the project, which she hopes will continue for several years if not decades.
The study is currently looking for participants from both workers and employers, with the survey to start by mid-September. Kristman is hoping for at least 500 participants that would be followed during the course of the survey.
Working with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, researchers will randomly select three from the 10 industrial sectors in the region. The employers could then choose to participate, and workers would also have the opportunity to be part of the survey. Reports will go back to workplaces on how their workforce sees them.
"There may be some surprises for the workplace," Kristman said, "not just around mental health, but workplace factors that might impact mental health.
"We really want to understand how the workplace and particular aspects of the workplace affect mental health and overall health in Northwestern Ontario workers." Kristman said it's particularly important coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We sort of have this epidemic of mental health problems going on right now," she said. "And we really want to try to help workplaces to better help their workers thrive mentally instead of suffer."
Kristman is looking to get a cross-sectional sample of the region's entire workforce, hoping for at minimum 500 workers from the 10 industrial sectors in northwestern Ontario. The participants would receive confidential follow-up every six months.
The survey will have additional questions for certain workers, including nurses, paramedics, people in the mining industry, as well as those who are supervisors and especially people who've been working from home. The study will also have additional questions for Indigenous and immigrant workers in the region.
With the study expected to develop over time, its goal is to develop solutions, test interventions and look at the evidence on what does and doesn't work in workplaces and for workers regarding their mental health and well-being. The study would look at what the impact is on families in the long term.
The Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development is funding the survey, but Kristman said it's exciting that this research is specifically for Northwestern Ontario.
"It was developed by researchers living in the North for people in the North," Kristman said. "This is something we haven't had a lot of workplace work and health research conducted in Northwestern Ontario. So this is a really exciting initiative for our area."
Some baseline results of the initial parts of the survey are expected in February 2024, with more results being released as the survey continues.