Supporting Employees’ Mental Fitness

By Dr. Bill Howatt and Andrew Harkness

Self-awareness is a powerful tool. For example, if we step on a scale and discover that we are 10 pounds overweight, we have a choice. We can do nothing, or we can adjust our lifestyle by eating less and exercising more. The same is true for mental health. When we are self-aware of our mental fitness, we can make better decisions and take the necessary actions to promote mental health and prevent mental harms.

We all face daily situations and life events that are intensely stressful and challenging. Such intense periods commonly have some negative impact on our ability to function to our full potential. This doesn’t mean we have a mental illness. These emotional ups and downs are part of the human experience. We are simply feeling off as we grieve, learn to cope, and build resiliency.

Like managing our physical health, we can adopt daily micro-decisions and habits to maintain mental fitness or take steps to feel better.

Now you can easily take stock of your mental fitness

The Mental Fitness Index (MFI) employee version is a free adaptation of Howatt HR’s full MFI. It is a short, confidential screening tool that individuals can use on their own to assess their overall mental health. It is not a clinical assessment.

When an individual completes the MFI, they receive a score, an explanation of the score, and action steps for consideration. The report suggests steps to help maintain a state of well-being or, if necessary, actions to feel better. If the person is struggling, their results can provide a nudge to help them focus on improving their mental fitness, including prompting them to seek support if needed.

Mental fitness in the workplace is a shared responsibility

As a leader, you should be promoting mental health and preventing mental harms, and employees must take responsibility for their mental health. The employee version of the MFI helps individuals build self-awareness and supports this dual responsibility.

One of many tools that support the Roadmap to Psychological Health and Safety

It is estimated that 70% of all mental illness goes undetected. When a person’s mental health slips, it increases their risk of mental illness and addictive behaviours. The Roadmap to Psychological Health and Safety has been developed by WSPS in partnership with the Conference Board of Canada. It is aligned to the three tenets of the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace:

  • Prevent mental harm
  • Promote mental health
  • Resolve incidents or concerns in the workplace

The Roadmap is designed to help employers facilitate important conversations and increase self-awareness to protect mental health and prevent mental harm.

It outlines a series of building blocks to help individuals self-evaluate their mental health in a non-clinical manner. WSPS will be offering a variety of free and paid resources, in various formats, to support each one.

Much like physical health, mental health is influenced by daily micro-decisions and experiences with one’s community, home, and workplace environments. The employee version of the MFI, along with the other tools offered in conjunction with the Roadmap, will build employees’ self-awareness and encourage them to be proactive in managing their mental fitness.


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