Success Story: EARN’s Annual Conference

EARN held its 6th Annual Conference, “Opening Doors to Inclusion: Workplace Strategies for Mental Health”, on Wednesday, June 6th at Ottawa City Hall. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend the event! Here is some of the feedback we received:

 “The personal stories were incredible! The key speaker was fantastic. One of the best conferences I’ve attended!”

“It encompasses so much about mental health, from the people who live with it, how many it affects, and how we can support those who do.”

“I learned a lot about workplace accommodations. In particular, I loved the analogy that physical and mental health should be treated by employers the same way as if someone has just stubbed their toe. We all need a more matter-of-fact approach to workplace accommodations to remove judgement.”

EARN’s Conference was expertly facilitated by Michael Lifshitz (MC), and with a moving keynote address given by Canadian Military veteran, Natacha Dupuis, this year saw the largest attendance to date of all our conferences. We also held focus groups for job seekers and employers during the conference; we are eager to share learnings from these sessions with the network in the near future.

The following provides a summary of four presentations, specifically those which focused on providing links to resources and actionable tools.


Session: Working Towards Mental Wellness

Presenter: Ashely Challinor, Ontario Chamber of Commerce

Summary: The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) is an independent, non-profit, and non-partisan voice for Ontario business, with a membership comprising 135 local chambers of commerce and boards of trade, and representing over 60,000 employers and their two million employees.

Here are 2 compelling metrics from this presentation: 81% of Ontario businesses believe that spending on employee health and well-being is a good investment. Yet only 4 out of 10 Ontario businesses have a formal strategy for health and well-being. How then can a higher percentage of businesses put in place a health and well-being strategy to foster a mentally healthy workplace? The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has responded to this challenge by creating a free online Employer Toolkit.

Resource: Ontario Chamber of Commerce Employer Toolkit


Session: A Mentally Healthy Workplace: The 13 Factors

Presenter: Kristina Smith, Ottawa Public Health

Summary: Ottawa Public Health (OPH) provides public health programs and services to individuals and communities while advocating for public policies that make our city and its residents healthier.

In her presentation, Kristina Smith defined the difference between mental health and well-being, and mental illness. She then went on to present the 13 factors which promote psychological health and prevent harm in the workplace. The factors are as follows: organization and culture; psychological and social support; clear leadership and expectations; civility and respect; psychological demands; growth and development; recognition and reward; involvement and influence; workload management; engagement; balance; psychological protection; and protection of physical safety. These factors originate from the National Standard of Canada on “Psychological health and safety in the workplace – Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation”. OPH has free resources online that address the 13 factors, including easy to digest animated shorts and a link to the National Standard itself.

Resource: Ottawa Public Health National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace


Session: The Business Case for Hiring Aspiring Workers

Presenter: Krista Benes, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Summary: The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) leads the development and dissemination of innovative programs and tools to support the mental health and wellness of Canadians.

Krista Benes presented on a research project which used a case study approach to explore issues around the business case for employers to recruit individuals living with a mental illness, and the organizational strategies and practices that would best promote recruitment and retention of people with mental illness in Canadian workplaces. Five diverse organizations took part in the project. The findings to date spoke to the value of building an inclusive workplace that values diversity, embraces open communication and worker engagement by drawing on existing resources such as the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. The cost benefit analysis also spoke to a strong business case for this approach; it saves employers significant dollars to accommodate workers appropriately, and employees also gain by maintaining their jobs.

The full report is available below.

Resource: A Clear Business Case for Hiring Aspiring Workers


Session: Making It Happen in Your Workplace

Presenter: Louise Reid, Facilitator and Empowerment Coach

Summary: Louise Reid has life and professional experience in HR, coaching, and in health and wellness initiatives. She has a gift for “helping women take brave, bold action in pursuit of their best life’. In this presentation she walked conference attendees through the “Making It Happen” worksheet, a resource for employers created by EARN. The worksheet uses a step by step approach to enable employers to envision how they could go about bringing an idea back to their organizations that would promote health and wellness in their workplaces.

Resource: Making It Happen Worksheet


There are many organizations and people to thank for their part in making this conference such a success.

Our sponsors:
• Presenting Sponsor: Ottawa Employment Hub
• Action Item Notebook: Hydro Ottawa
• Conference Program: Sphere
• Conference Sponsors: Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation, CVE Inc., City of Ottawa, John Howard Society of Ottawa, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care Inc.

Supported by:
• Fit + Healthy 365
• Ottawa Chamber of Commerce
• United Way Centraide Ottawa

A Special Thank You to:
• The City of Ottawa & staff for the venue and ongoing support
• Krackers Katering  for the wonderful healthy food and professional service

The People:
• The presenters, the panelists from Little Ray’s Reptiles and Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care Inc., the MC, the Keynote Speaker, and the many volunteers, who generously gave of their time, including members of EARN’s Conference Planning Committee & staff from HIO & United Way Centraide Ottawa

WordPress Video Lightbox