Latimer: Canada helps UK learn about workplace depression

Some countries in Europe and elsewhere are turning to Canada to help them create strategies of their own for battling depression.

It is true we still have a long way to go when it comes to acknowledging and addressing the impact depression has on our society. I often write about the ongoing stigma surrounding this common mental illness and the need for more research into prevention and treatment.

Still, Canada is a leader in some ways and especially since we created the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Some countries in Europe and elsewhere are turning to Canada to help them create strategies of their own for battling depression.

This week Canada’s High Commissioner to the UK will host 75 business leaders from major EU corporations at a London kick off to the European Business Leadership Forum focusing on making workplaces more brain healthy.

Meanwhile, Bill Wilkerson—an outspoken Canadian mental health advocate—is launching a business-science alliance to broaden the battle against workplace depression and revise how mental health is studied and approached.

Each of these initiatives on its own is encouraging to see but it is especially exciting to learn there is hope they will combine into a large project spanning countries within the EU as well as Canada and US to launch pilot projects and clinical studies in workplaces.

Wilkerson has ambitious goals for this project and openly says the end game is for a cure to depression. In the meantime, he has set at 10-year deadline to reduce the number of disability claims for depression and anxiety to 10 percent of all claims instead of the 35-45 percent they occupy today.

Depression affects between 18 and 25 percent of the Canadian workforce in a given year and it is the largest and fastest growing cause of disability on the job. On a given week in Canada, 500,000 people don’t go to work because of mental health problems. Of those, 355,000 are on disability and 175,000 have called in sick.

In the EU and North America depression costs the economy more than $1 trillion a year in health care costs, lost productivity and reduction in health-related quality of life.

It is great to see business leaders and scientists coming together to tackle a problem that has huge implications in both sectors. With the combined efforts and expertise, we should be able to vastly improve workplace mental health and perhaps also make strides toward better treatments, a cure and the elimination of persistent stigma toward mental illness.

I am eager to see how these projects progress.