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Case Study: The Working Mind at Scarborough Health Network

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Across our three hospitals and several community-based satellite sites, Scarborough Health Network (SHN) is shaping the future of care. Our innovative programs and services are designed for the specific needs of the Scarborough community, and our medical expertise and compassionate care are accessed from well beyond our borders.

Case study highlights:

Started TWM Training: May 2023
Staff Trained So Far: 471
Employees Trained: 350
Leaders Trained: 118
Active/Associate Physicians: 3

We operate one of North America’s largest regional nephrology programs, the regional community-based cardiovascular rehabilitation service, the designated cardiac centre for the Central East region of Ontario, and an internationally designated cardio-oncology clinic centre of excellence.

As a community-affiliated teaching site for the University of Toronto, member of the Toronto Academic Science and Health Network, and partner with other universities and colleges, we are committed to helping to train the next generation of healthcare professionals. Learn more at shn.ca.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Philippa Dawood, Wellness Specialist, and Ann Sideris, Director of Workplace Health and Safety at SHN, found themselves grappling with a pivotal decision after receiving a substantial donation from the SHN Foundation and the Canadian Nurses Foundation – they needed to determine the most impactful allocation of these funds.

Typically, workplace wellness discussions often centre on surface-level solutions like refreshments. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more intense physical and mental health challenges emerged. Burnout was pervasive and the wellness conversation at SHN needed to be re-evaluated. It was at this juncture that SHN engaged the Workplace Health and Safety team with the pressing need to heighten their emphasis on mental health.

“We were leading physical and psychological initiatives like the Take Care campaign, to spread messages of support and encouragement,” said Philippa. “We were working so hard to put supports in place, which led us to realize that there needed to be a culture shift in how people speak about their mental health.” So the Workplace Health and Safety Team researched available options to initiate such a culture shift and turned to the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC) The Working Mind program. This program is dedicated to fostering mental health and dismantling workplace stigmas surrounding mental illness.

Why We Train Our Employees in TWM

Engaging with the MHCC to craft a compelling PowerPoint presentation, the Wellness team at SHN demonstrated meticulous preparation in designing and presenting their mental health strategy, policies, and program to senior leadership – complete with supporting data.

In 2023, Philippa had completed the first cohort of TWM. It was after her course completion that she realized the importance of the content and a transformative idea began to take root.

Rather than solely addressing immediate concerns, the course provided an opportunity to shift the organization’s culture concerning mental health to foster mental well-being. Philippa reflected: “I knew it was important to leverage this learning for our people in support of psychological health and safety.”

SHN officially launched TWM on May 19, 2023. Within the first three sessions, word quickly spread about the content and Philippa became inundated with requests to learn more about the course.

“This training creates an environment where it’s OK to keep talking and continue the conversation about mental well-being,” said Philippa. “We have since finished our second cohort of sessions and have an active waitlist.”

“The Working Mind is helping us to frame our organizational strategy not just for mental health but for organizational wellness,” she shared. “Mental health awareness is needed for every single risk factor: workload management, engagement, organizational culture, etc. That’s the beauty of this training; it opens up these conversations.”

SHN’s workplace mental wellness efforts were featured in Global News’ mental health spotlight. The Wellness Team at SNH also devised a comprehensive stress management program. This program includes huddle cards, a workbook, a care package, badge support cards, and frequent reminders to access resources. The program promotes awareness of all mental health support within the workplace.

“Among staff, there used to be minimal talk about mental health in the workplace. Since the training, people are more open to talking about it,” said Ann. “Traditionally, people call in saying they aren’t feeling well, but we now find that people are more open to talking about their mental health struggles.”


In 2023, 7.5% of SHN’s workforce underwent TWM training – a testament to the program’s growing impact. The team at SHN has witnessed a surge in interest, with the session’s waitlist expanding as employees and physicians have encouraged their peers to take the training.

“People are becoming more comfortable with being proactive about their mental health. They are also wanting to learn more to support themselves and their colleagues,” explained Philippa. “The training allows a sense of comfort, and we’ve had leaders open up about speaking to staff about their mental health.”

Philippa shared insights from employees who have undergone TWM training:

  • “TWM has helped me do my job.”
  • “This is the best training they’ve done in 30 years at this organization.”
  • “We have to find a way to try and continue to do this.”
  • “The content and the conversation that is enabled by the tools and resources have been great.”
  • “The videos are incredibly powerful and relatable.”

“Managers are very connected to their staff and better prepared to talk to them about mental health. The response might have been different if they hadn’t taken The Working Mind,” said Ann. “It’s had a transformative impact on managerial dynamics.”

What the Future Holds

Looking to the future, SHN has been recognized as one of Canada’s most admired corporate cultures and is actively solidifying its commitment to the national standard. This commitment to the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace is a framework to guide organizations in their efforts to foster mental well-being.

“I would like to see everyone in the organization receive mental health training, and I’m sure we’ll get there. This mental health training helps patients, colleagues, and each other,” explained Ann. “If we can’t help and support our team, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Everyone should have mental health training.”

Today, the Wellness Team is looking towards a brighter future with the support of SHN’s Strategic Plan 2024-2029. The plan involves refreshing the People Framework to develop a comprehensive People Strategy. The goal of this transformative project is to reimagine how SHN attracts, develops, supports, and retains its valued staff across all organizational levels, preparing for the evolving landscape of the future of work. And just like the vibrant community of Scarborough itself, the staff at SHN represents diverse cultures, ethnicities, genders, faiths, life experiences, and identities from all over the world, making SHN truly a special place, one Where the World Comes to Work.

Phillipa noted the contribution TWM has made within the broader efforts of the Strategic Plan: “TWM has triggered a lot of positive preventative work for our people,” she said. “That overarching support will have a huge impact on our greatest asset – our people.”

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