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Case Study: The City of Thunder Bay and The Working Mind

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“Quality of life at work matters. The happier and healthier the people that work here are, the better equipped they are to provide great service to our residents. This training is important.” 

–    Norm Gale, City Manager, City of Thunder Bay 

Thunder Bay is the largest community on Lake Superior. With a population of 109,140, it is the most populous municipality in Northwestern Ontario. The City of Thunder Bay is a municipal government that provides a balance of services that improve the quality of life of its residents and supports the Thunder Bay economy in a responsible manner. From parks and recreation to transportation, clean drinking water and waste management, Thunder Bay is always working to live up to its motto: Superior By Nature. 

In 2016, the City’s senior staff decided to implement the National Standard for Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace. However, the City quickly realized that to get the ball rolling on implementing the Standard, they needed to foster leadership, commitment and participation of the 2,300+ employees and start the conversation of mental health in the workplace. 

In December 2016, the City of Thunder Bay made the decision to have Krystina Hunter, the employee Health & Wellness Coordinator, trained as a trainer in The Working Mind. A couple months later, Krystina also participated in the five-day Train-the-Trainer Program for Mental Health First Aid.

“Two years ago, I could never have predicted the success of these mental health training programs. The level of staff interest and the impact the training has had on shifting our workplace culture is truly remarkable.” 

–    Krystina Hunter, Employee Health & Wellness Coordinator, the City of Thunder Bay

Program Rollout

The City of Thunder Bay began rolling out the training programs to its Human Resources & Corporate Safety team as well as their Psychological Health & Safety Committee (PHSC). The PHSC is made up of staff at various levels with different job types, as well as union and health and safety representatives. Their goal is to lead the implementation of the Standard and ensure corporate efforts are flexible and reflective of their individual work areas. 

All other staff may opt to register for pre-scheduled The Working Mind and Mental Health First Aid training sessions through corporate training, and managers have the option to host private sessions for their individual teams (with a group size from eight to 25). 

In less than two years, the City of Thunder Bay has trained 617 staff members and affiliates in mental health training. The City has hosted more than 45 training sessions offered through its Well at Work Program. On average, classes were over 65% full through mostly voluntary sign-ups. The City of Thunder Bay plans to continue offering both training programs to staff to specifically build resilience and strategies for self-care.

Program Success

“What I found to be the most important was the fact that my employer is working on removing the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Overall, the most useful thing is knowing that it’s being taken seriously by the corporation. The presenter did a really good job of getting the material across.”

–    Anonymous Participant

The City of Thunder Bay was overwhelmed by the feedback it received after offering the training. From the qualitative evaluations that were completed, the City found four major themes. Staff report: 

  1. Being grateful to the employer for offering the training
  2. The skills learned will provide value at work as well as in their personal lives
  3. The course has changed their perspectives about mental health 
  4. They believe everyone should take the course 

The City has also collected the following quantitative results from individuals who completed the post-training evaluation: 

  • 86% agree “the topic of training was important to their role” 
  • 84% agree “the program has increased my understanding and comfort with mental illness and mental health problems in the workplace 
  • 89% agree they learned new information about mental health, mental illness and resilience
  • 96% agree they can use this information in the workplace
  • 97% agree they can use this information in other areas of their lives


“I think it’s important to have senior management’s buy-in for the training program. After training them in the full-day leadership version of TWM, they were very on board with getting their staff trained.” 

“Because we had such a high number of our staff trained, the level of buy-in for our corporate Psychological Health & Safety efforts have, in our opinion, significantly increased.”

–    Krystina Hunter, Employee Health & Wellness Coordinator, the City of Thunder Bay

“I feel having training available to staff and providing them with some knowledge in the area of mental health benefits us two-fold. The first way is by providing more information to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, which will hopefully encourage people who are having concerns with their mental health to come forward for help. The second way is providing people with the tools to recognize and act when a person is having challenges with their mental health, or they themselves are having challenges, in a way that is productive and healthy.” 

–    Darrik Smith, Program Supervisor, Canada Games Complex, City of Thunder Bay & Psychological Health & Safety Committee member

“The mental health training that has been made available to our staff and management via The Working Mind and the Mental Health First Aid has a value far beyond measurable outcomes. It doesn’t just provide the tools to help yourself, your co-worker, a friend or even a stranger who is struggling with mental health, it provides an opportunity to develop empathy, understanding and compassion to the struggles that many of us face, which in turn is making a difference in the culture of acceptance.”

–    Tanya Baker, Education Coordinator, Pioneer Ridge, City of Thunder Bay & Psychological Health & Safety Committee member

“The Working Mind training was excellent! It gave our team a good foundation and awareness of mental health in the workplace. Our team of managers, frontline supervisors and frontline staff/union representatives were trained. By training a variety of trusted individuals in our workplace, we were able to build a good team of internal go-to people.”

–    Liane Heebner, Clinical Nurse Manager, Pioneer Ridge, City of Thunder Bay & Psychological Health & Safety Committee member

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