Mental Health for You and Your Employees

The Covid19 crisis has thrown everyone off balance, including business owners, who are reeling from the sudden shut-down and are now having to dust themselves off and figure out where to go from here and what lies ahead. It is a frightening, anxiety-producing time.

The New Westminster Chamber of Commerce invited Michael Anhorn, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Vancouver-Fraser to a Zoom meeting to speak to business leaders in our community about the recovery process.

Anhorn, who has been involved in a number of disaster response efforts with the the Canadian Red Cross, says that the steps to recover follow a predictable line, although each individual's timeline to recovery may be different.

In the early stages, it's all about survival – finding safety and security. In the case of an earthquake or hurricane, for example, there is a somewhat predictable end to the event. But in the case of the Covid16 calamity, the future looks very blurry, he explains, so this stage can be prolonged for many.

When people start being able to plan what to do, it is indicative of their moving into the second stage of recovery. One of the signs that your employees are moving into that space is that they start second-guessing your decisions. He admits this can be annoying, but it is an indication that people are feeling more positive.

Anhorn had many suggestions for leaders to create and maintain their own mental health and to keep things on an even keel for employees, as a group and individually. 

For business leaders, he had a number of suggestions, such as developing and keeping a routine. Keeping meaningful activities in your life is important. “It's all about finding what works for you”. He stressed the importance of getting outside and being active; that getting exercise is  good for your body and your brain. He cautioned that “this is a marathon”.  Pace yourself, reach out for help if needed, stay connected to your family and friends, and be a good role model for your employees and family.

When it comes to employees, predictability is the name of the game. Have regular meetings and regular emails to them about what's going on. If you notice an employee's behaviour changes, say from being sunny to sullen over the course of a few days, then talk to them. Simply ask them “How are you?” Try to get past the usual “Fine” reply, show you care, ask if you can assist them in finding help. There are a number of resources, you can direct them to.  Don't try to fix their problem.

Not all people respond well to all possible treatments, but you can direct them to find something that works for them through their family physician, CMHA-BC ( or phone 311 to find out about local resources. He underlined the fact that the earlier one gets help the better the outcome.

To see the whole video of the meeting, go to the website and look up Chamber of Commerce: Mental Health for Employers and Employees.

By: Susan Millar

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