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Let's do lunch, and mental health

Workplace Safety North hosting Feed your Brain Lunch and Learn Series to show people how to create positive work environments
Workplace Safety North is running a series of workshops titled Feed Your Brain Lunch and Learn Series. During these workshops, people are shown ways to create more positive work environments and tackle specific issues like stress, drugs and alcohol why mental health matters.

Workplace Safety North (WSN) is taking mental health in the workplace right to the people, and showing them how they can make them more positive.

The organization launched Feed your Brain Lunch and Learn Series earlier this year and organizers say it's been an amazing success, with the free sessions filling up.

From January to November there will be a series of two-hour workshops starting at 11:30 a.m., including lunch, session and discussions. The workshops will be held in Sudbury, Kirkland Lake and North Bay.

The reasoning behind these sessions, said Angele Poitras, organizer and community engagement specialist, was a combination of both community request and the organization's CEO Paul Andre after talking to clients.

“WSN has a 20/20 strategy that they are following,” she said. “Andre wanted to demonstrate the commitment we have tot he communities in which we work, live and play in Northern Ontario. Another was to target areas of greatest need and enhance our services.”

After speaking with clients and going over their ideology, the strategy was to organize a series of workshops looking at specific topics. The focus for this pilot project year will be topics on psychological health and safety.

Poitras said it became apparent people wanted access to more information, as well as build a network where they can have these conversations and share resources with each other.

“You get a roomful of people, and they come from every business you can imagine, so they are able to gain resources from Workplace Safety North, but from each other,” she said. “We hope these communities will develop into communities of best practices, so that eventually we can look at changing the culture long-term.”

The areas they are focusing on are promoting mental health through a positive culture, drugs and alcohol in the workplace, stress in the workplace, why mental health matters, and why workplace culture is important. Each session can accommodate about 35 to 40 people and require advanced booking.

What WSN is hoping to do is show people how they can work on creating positive environments in their own workplaces.

They are running this, she said, because studies have shown mental health is becoming a greater concern among businesses.

She cited a prediction made 15 years ago in a study. By 2020, mental health will become the greatest cost for employers.

“We are two years away, and some of the organizations I've talked to, it's already their biggest cost,” she said. “We have to take a look at it, and recognize it doesn't stay at home.”

The first session, she said, focused on positive psychology, retraining parts of the brain, how attitude and gratitude effects the workplace.

There was a hands-on activity where people were asked to take their phones and call or text someone in their workplace or family and thank them for a specific thing.

“People were responding back, with messages like 'are you OK,' and 'are you sick' or 'wow, you made my day,” she said. “It created this atmosphere, what our mothers and significant figures in our lives taught us growing up, to be kind to other people and thanking people. Sometimes we forget about that, but it contributes to a positive culture in an organization.”
Information like that is something they could use at a team-building session, staff meeting, or any exercise, she said.

Every session has post-workshop evaluations, and so far, she said 100 per cent of the participants have reported they learned something they could take back to their workplace. They have also received requests for follow-up and additional dialogue.

The sessions move to the chosen communities during the month to get as many people as possible to come to the sessions. The head office is in North Bay and Kirkland Lake is where the Mine Rescue Provincial Competition will be held this year. They work hand-in-hand with the competition and wanted to help promote it.

They also wanted to highlight the new centre on Cedar Street in Sudbury, which she said is going to be a model for all future centres across the north and they want to have people come in and see the centre, and start using it.

Based on the participation, she said they are hoping they can make it an annual series. They will be going back to the communities to ask where the focus should be for 2019.

“These are lead by the community, and driven by the community,” she said.