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Case Study: The City of Edmonton and Mental Health First Aid

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By setting up a peer support team in the early 2000s, and continuously offering mental health training programs to their staff, The City of Edmonton continue to set the bar when it comes to workplace mental health.

The City of Edmonton has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to mental health support for their employees. By setting up a peer support team in the early 2000s, and continuously offering mental health training programs to their staff, they continue to set the bar when it comes to workplace mental health.

In 2007, the City determined, based on needs, trends and increased awareness around mental health issues, to increase education and training by introducing Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to its employees.

Fast forward 10 years, and the City of Edmonton had trained approximately 2,000 staff members in MHFA. This training resulted in an overall heightened awareness around mental health in the workplace as well as the need to do more around mental health.

After seeing the success of MHFA, John Dowds, Lead Chaplain & Senior Mental Health Consultant with the City started looking into other potential programs they could add to their corporate mental health strategy. John reached out to the Edmonton Fire Rescue, who was currently training staff members in The Working Mind First Responders (TWMFR, formerly known as Road to Mental Readiness) program and seeing tremendous success. It came about that the TWMFR program was being adapted for the general workplace, and John knew it would make a strong addition to their internal offerings.

In order to move forward with the course, John and his team developed a business case to present to the City of Edmonton leadership team, in order to highlight the benefits of The Working Mind training.

“Buy-in was very high from our leadership team when it came to The Working Mind training” said Jessica Culling, a Mental Health/Healthy Living Consultant with the City of Edmonton. “After our successful rollout of MHFA, there was a heightened awareness around workplace mental health and The Working Mind training received a warm reception from all the Managers and Supervisors I’ve worked with.”

Before offering the training to employees, the City of Edmonton hosted a three-hour executive level training for senior-level staff. With the City Manager, Deputy City Managers and Branch Managers in attendance, many returned to their individual departments praising the program and encouraging everyone to take the course.

“It was really impressive to see,” mentioned Culling. “Leadership was extremely receptive and supportive of the training from the get-go. They all felt the training was needed and were open to working collaboratively to get as many City employees trained as possible. They all recognized this needed to be a priority moving forward.”

The Results

As of December 2019, the City of Edmonton had trained over 1,300 staff members in The Working Mind. With plans already in place to train all employees, the results have been very impressive. The following data has been retrieved from a post-training participant survey conducted by The Working Mind.

  • agree the topic of the training was important for their role
  • agree the program has reinforced their understanding and comfort with mental illness and meal health problems in the workplace
  • agree they can use this information in the workplace
  • agree they can use this information in other areas of their life

Participants went on to say…

“The Mental Health Continuum Model was a great guide throughout the course. It gave good ideas on what to look for, changes in behaviour, and how to respond.”

“Talking through how to have difficult conversations – I really appreciated how we talked about the importance of work performance and how we could use those expectations to initiate conversation.”

“Both instructors had a lot of real life situations to share with us. The course provided information but did a good job expressing the material in a useful manner. Allowed me to come back to my work environment and freely discuss mental health with fellow workers.”

“I think that this is a very useful program to provide to all supervisors and employees to gain better understanding of mental illness and reduce stigma in society not just the workplace.”

The City of Edmonton is currently working towards having all Managers trained by 2020. They will also start working towards training their employee base of around 12,000 staff members. They currently have 36 facilitators that are able to deliver the course, and plan on adding 12 more in early 2020

They have set a goal to have most employees trained in The Working Mind within the next 24 months.

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