Posted by Caroline Lachapelle on January 21, 2022
Caroline Lachapelle

With any health issue, early detection can have a big impact on treatment and recovery. This is also true for mental health. However, in many cases, stress, anxiety, and depression often go unnoticed, unacknowledged, and untreated.

The responsibility to speak up and seek help commonly falls on the person affected. But the truth is that friends, family members, colleagues, and managers can also play a big role. By recognizing signs of distress, initiating conversations, and locating the right resources, we can help our loved ones better manage their mental health issues. 


What you need to know about mental health in Canada

Mental health awareness is on the rise, but so are stress and anxiety disorders. Here are some sobering facts about mental health in Canada. 

  • 45% of Canadians report worsened mental health due to the pandemic.

  • 1 in 3 Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime.

  • 500,000 Canadians miss work every year for mental health reasons.

  • 60% of people avoid seeking help due to fear of being stigmatized or labelled. 

  • 90% of Canada’s 4000 annual suicides are related to a mental health problem.


How to recognize that someone is in difficulty

Getting help early is an important part of treating mental health issues, but many Canadians still struggle to openly discuss their stress, anxiety, depression, and other well-being concerns. Here is how you can recognize the signs of mental distress:

  • Physical changes, like fatigue, low energy, weight loss, or weight gain

  • Psychological changes, like sadness, isolation, irritability, or lack of regard for others

  • Cognitive changes, like impaired decision-making, memory issues, or more frequent mistakes

  • Changes at work or school, like absenteeism, tardiness, or drop in productivity and motivation

More severe signs may include:

  • New or increased alcohol or drug use

  • Talk of being a burden, or being in unbearable pain

  • Talk of or having a plan for suicide

Over the past few years, over a third of Canadians have been working from home. While remote work improves work-life balance for many people, for some, it can trigger or exacerbate mental health issues. One thing is certain, remote work – whether it’s full-time or just a few days a week – is here to stay.

Knowing how to spot signs of distress in a virtual workplace is crucial.

  • Physical changes: Does your employee or colleague seem tired, distracted, or dishevelled in video calls? Changes in appearance and hygiene could be subtle signs that they aren’t doing well.

  • Behavioural changes: Does your normally type A colleagues seem confused about their tasks? Are they more disorganized than usual? Maybe they are frequently late to meetings or forgetting to attend altogether. Stress can impact cognitive function, which is sometimes exhibited through time management issues, forgetfulness, and reduced focus.

  • Performance changes: Working long hours and unusual hours is not uncommon, but for some, being over-productive can be a coping mechanism. If a loved one or colleague is dedicating more time to work than usual, they might be looking for a way to avoid dealing with their feelings. 


How to prepare for a conversation about mental health

If you’ve noticed changes in someone you care about, reach out. Even though you can’t provide psychological or medical support (leave that to a professional), you can still be there to listen, offer to help find local resources, schedule consultations, or go along to appointments.

If you’re ready to start a compassionate conversation about mental health, here is how to prepare:

  • Identify the issue with observable facts or changes you’ve noticed.

  • Promptly schedule a conversation at a time that is convenient for all.

  • Find a suitable place that provides privacy and comfort.

  • Set aside enough time to ensure you won’t be interrupted.

  • Anticipate possible reactions and be prepared to provide available resources.


Things to keep in mind during the conversation

It’s important to ensure the person feels comfortable and safe. It’s also essential to prioritize your own well-being, even when you’re trying to help someone else with theirs. Pay attention to how you feel during the conversation. If certain topics or experiences are triggering for you, it’s ok to gently refer your loved one to another resource. 

Here are a few things to remember during a conversation about mental health:

  • Let the person speak.

  • Pay attention to nonverbal communication.

  • Set healthy psychological boundaries.

  • Respect moments of silence.

  • Be empathetic and ensure discretion. (e.g., The way you’re feeling is completely normal)

  • Avoid shifting the discussion to another situation (e.g., I have a friend who’s going through the same thing as you).


You might not be able to prevent a mental health crisis, but you can be prepared for one if it happens to someone you know. If you get a sense that the situation is critical, consider the following steps:

  • Take action by helping them get in touch with their doctor or mental health provider.

  • Contact a local crisis centre.

  • Go with them to the nearest emergency room or call 911.


How Dialogue can help

We all have a role to play in creating a compassionate and respectful environment, at work and at home. To provide the best support, we need to learn about the resources we have access to. Many employers provide mental health support through benefits. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 Canadians with employee benefit plans are not even aware of the benefits available to them. This is why it’s important to stay in the loop. Connect with your manager or HR representative to see if your organization provides access to a mental health specialist. 


Mental health program

Virtual care providers, like Dialogue, can help manage stress, anxiety, and other well-being concerns. Our team of mental health professionals works with you to create a personalized treatment plan and check in regularly to make sure you have the support you need. Day-to-day self-care also makes a difference. Dialogue’s interactive self-care toolkits (through our iCBT program) help you improve your mental and emotional well-being, while managing everyday negative feelings.


Employee assistance program

Mental health issues are often caused by external stressors. Whether you are worried about your career, need legal or financial advice, or want to learn more about healthy relationships, getting support for general work-life issues has a positive impact on overall mental health. Ask your employer if you have access to Dialogue’s Employee Assistance Program. 

Learn more about how Dialogue can help you and your family members prioritize mental health.


Access my mental health resources 



Topics: Health and Wellness

About the author

Caroline is a nurse clinician with over 5 years of experience in Gynaecology, Paediatrics, Surgery, Home Care and Routine and Ongoing care. She even completed humanitarian work in Haïti during her internship. She is passionate about nutrition, sports, fitness and well-being.