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The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about mental health.

Spring is Sprung, the Grass is Riz… I Wonder Where the Magic Is? Coping with COVID-19 Accommodations

Spring is Sprung, the Grass is Riz… I Wonder Where the Magic Is? Coping with COVID-19 Accommodations

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

In Canada, winters are tough and as soon as we get past March, we begin looking forward to Spring… more light, warmer temperatures, a sense of waking optimism! That’s the magic of this season. Or, it has been in years past. This season feels a little (a lot??) different. Social distancing, doubt about careers, and worry for loved ones all contribute to a significant headwind against the optimism that Spring typically brings.

Some people take this all in stride — a grand adventure! “It’s not the situation, it is how you choose to react to it!” That’s fine and good for the folks who have the wherewithal to adopt this mental state and if you are one of these, consider yourself lucky. Mental Health has been given increasing levels of press these past years, thanks to the advent of Mental Health Week/Month and advancing education on this important subject. Eagle supports this by running a “Not Myself Today” campaign each year and, during these COVID-19 accommodations we are extending this. We’re working hard to ensure none of our staff are “left behind” struggling to cope with isolation, loneliness, anxiety, or stress. Sometimes the solution isn’t just adopting a tough mental attitude, people need more assistance.

As contractors, you are both “regular employees” and “business owners” With this, the stressors can be double. Uncertainty as a contractor isn’t a new thing, but this COVID-19 world that we live in elevates uncertainty to levels that can be hard to cope with. If you are struggling with this, you need to recognize that you are not alone in feeling this way. But with the necessary accommodations required to stem COVID-19, isolation is a bigger threat. Know that there is a lot of help out there for you. Any number of agencies, government or private, exist to give you the boost you might need to work through your challenges. You need not wait until you are overwhelmed by things to seek help; in fact, the earlier you begin the easier it will be to work yourself into the right mindset. Two terrific sources of support are MindBeacon and the Canadian Centre for Mental Health. MindBeacon is typically offered as a “for-fee” service, but during the pandemic, they have opened up their services free-of-charge to all Canadians that need their assistance and the CCMHS is always available for those Canadians requiring their services. And, certainly, there are other sources of help as well. A quick online search will find many such organizations.

If you don’t need immediate help, but the stress of these times are beginning to wear on you, I thought I’d share a YouTube video that I found to be helpful. It’s theme is pragmatism above pessimism (and even optimism!) I found that it helped to put things into perspective. These next months will be hard but we’ll make it through and it will be better on the other side. Spring magic may just have to wait this year.

I wish you all good health, safety and the perspective needed to persevere!

Multitasking Isn’t Always as Bad as Everyone Says… But It Can Increase Your Stress

Multitasking Isn't Always as Bad as Everyone Says... But It Can Increase Your Stress

Multitasking is not a new concept in the workplace and much research has been done on the topic for decades. Some people are proponents of it, digging for solutions on how to optimize your multitasking to get more done. Others hate the practice and there are plenty of studies proving that it harms your productivity. One thing all sides agree on is that multitasking can increase your stress levels and you need to keep that in check.

What Is Multitasking?

Taking a step back, for the purposes of this post, multitasking comes in two forms. First, there’s the practice of doing multiple items at once. For example, checking emails and writing code while on mute during a conference call.

The other, slightly harder-to-define, form of multitasking is alternating between tasks, without finishing one first. This is also the more common type of multitasking that is a reality for nearly all office workers. Many of us are checking email every 15-30 minutes while bouncing back and forth between projects.

How Multitasking is Stressing You Out

We won’t get into the debate of whether or not you should multitask. As already noted, for some, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate it all together. It is important, however, to recognize that you need to manage it to reduce your stress and better serve your clients.

We first need to understand what the brain is doing when we multitask. Studies have shown that although we believe we’re thinking about many items at once, the brain is more similar to your web browser, going back and forth between different tabs. It can only focus on one tab at once. Each time you go to a different task, it must use energy to open the other one and reprocess what’s happening. Too much of this can cause burnout and even lead to anxiety.

If we agree that multitasking harms productivity, then we can understand how it causes more stress because you start missing deliverables, submit bad work and it can all snowball into more negativity. In addition, the result of switching between projects can deteriorate your focus and, in turn, your ability to retain information.

On the other hand, if we subscribe to the belief that multitasking has benefits and improves productivity, studies continue to show that stress is inevitable. Interestingly, one study found that even when multitasking makes you more productive, you’re still likely to feel as though you weren’t productive which, you guessed it, leads to stress! Being a master multitasker also creates habits of needing to check-in. This causes stress when you find yourself in situations where you suddenly can’t regularly check emails or work on multiple items.

Taking the Stress Out of Multitasking

Certainly, if multitasking isn’t for you, the best solution is to eliminate it. Monotasking takes more discipline, but as noted a couple times already, many productivity experts swear by it. They say it allows you to be present in the moment and complete tasks faster.

To make it more of a reality in your job, you can monotask by creating sub-tasks and mini-goals. For example, rather than saying, “I’m going to focus on writing my resume and will not do anything else until it’s done”, you would say “For the next hour I’m going to focus on writing a summary of my Project Management experience in the Oil and Gas sector.”

If you want to continue multitasking, that’s great too. Here are a few quick tips that will help you get to where you want to be, and reduce your stress:

  • Use the right tools. There are plenty of apps to help you out with this and the most basic tool is a pen and paper. Write to-do lists and take notes on where you’re at with each task before switching. This prevents you from using energy when picking up where you left off.
  • Limit distractions. Multitasking is fine, but sometimes it’s toxic. Turn off your notifications so you control when you check email, not the other way around.
  • Know what requires your full attention. Sometimes you cannot multitask. Especially with more complex items or in subjects you’re still new and need all your brain power. Turn off the music, close out your email, and save all other projects for another day.
  • Practice! Like everything, practice makes perfect and multitasking is no different. Set your own routines and processes until you find a system that works for you.

Managing Your Stress and Anxiety Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Managing Your Stress and Anxiety Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is causing drastic amounts of change and reaction from government, businesses and individuals. The unknown brings plenty of stress and anxiety to everyone, and that’s alright, as long as we deal with it in a healthy manner. While over-reacting and panicking has terrible consequences, under-reacting and denying the situation can also have tragic outcomes.

As the famous Serenity Prayer says “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the thinks I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It’s easier said than done, but a step towards eliminating anxiety is to identify what’s stressing you out, and then decide if you can even control it. If you can’t, then let it go.

6 Things Within Your Control to Help Reduce COVID-19 Anxiety

The most uplifting news you need to remember is that you have full control over a number of actions. Taking control helps you rid anxiety because you know you’re doing your part. The most obvious example relating to the Coronavirus is that you can follow all recommendations that have been handed down from health professionals so we can flatten the curve. Here are six other suggestions, completely within your control, that will help reduce anxiety and help others while you’re doing it:

  1. Control the Information You Take In. The first step is to replace irrational thoughts with facts, which you can do by staying informed. But there is such a thing as being too Depending too much on articles from your Facebook feed or allowing yourself to go down an Internet rabbit hole is going to inundate you with information and much of it will not be valid. To prevent anxiety from over-information, find 2 or 3 credible, trusted organizations and stick with them for information. Only review the sources a couple times per day, and aside from that, stop yourself from being exposed to any other information related to COVID-19. The World Health Organization recently launched a service on WhatsApp so you can get information direcetly from them.
  2. Stay connected with people. Social distancing, quarantining and isolating does not mean you can’t have any social life. Make extra effort to maintain contact with friends and family. We can guarantee that the Coronavirus does not spread through text, social media, and phone calls.
  3. Take Care of Those Around You. Deliver groceries or take a moment to call somebody who you know is probably alone and worried themselves. Simply put, be kind to others. These are already stressful times and petty arguments are extremely unproductive. Making other people’s lives easier also just feels good and improves your mental health.
  4. Keep a healthy routine. Working from your home office for 8 hours, eating an greasy meal and then sitting on the couch until it’s time for bed is going to deteriorate your mental health. You probably have extra time, so experiment with new, healthy meals and fix up that sleep schedule. You can also help your mental health by getting outdoors, continuing (or starting) an exercise routine, as well as making time for relaxation and mindfulness, such as reading, taking a hot bath, practicing meditation or doing yoga.
  5. Help Your Kids Cope. Anybody who has kids is probably already going crazy. On top of trying to entertain them and split up fights every 10 minutes, you might be getting blasted with questions about what’s happening in the world, and that increases your own anxiety. Remember to stay calm and stick with brief facts. Allow them to ask those questions, but limit responses to what they need to know and especially limit their exposure to news sources that spread fear.
  6. Seek Help When You Need It. Most importantly, understand that there will be times when you don’t have the answers and coping alone isn’t going to cut it. Whether that means calling a friend or a professional, know when it’s time to reach out. Below are some links with information from credible organizations that can help you get started.

While we’re doing what we can to protect our physical selves from the Coronavirus, we can’t forget about our mental health as well. It’s normal to experience extreme amounts of anxiety due to the uncertainty; however, being able to cope mentally is a necessity in moving forward and getting through these unprecedented times.

Resources

Let’s Talk About Mental Health in Tech

Let's Talk About Mental Health in Tech

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. A day when Canadians are encouraged to speak out about their struggles with mental health and breakdown the stigma often associated with mental illnesses. In the last 10 years, mental health awareness has taken a front-seat in many organizations around the world and we’re becoming increasingly aware that we’re all impacted by it.

A 2018 study by Sunlife Financial revealed that nearly half of Canadians have experienced a mental health issue, but the reality is that 100% of us have. Mental health issues go beyond more talked-about illnesses like severe depression, addiction, and schizophrenia. They include work-related stress, burnout and anything else that prevents you from being completely present. When not treated, each of these can become more severe and lead to negative outcomes.

Bell Let's Talk Day LogoIT contractors are not immune to mental health issues and, in fact, many believe they are at higher risk. According to the BIMA Tech Inclusive & Diversity Report 2019, tech workers in the UK are at least 5 times more depressed than average, with those in web design and development, admin and project management most likely to experience symptoms. These findings make sense given the nature of the tech industry and many IT jobs. It is not uncommon to hear about developers working late into the night, depriving themselves of sleep, which has severe long-term effects on one’s mental health. But even without that common stereotype, technology-related positions are often isolated and high-stress. They regularly have tight deadlines, implementations lasting hours longer than they’re supposed to, and a lack of ability to “wait until Monday” when things go wrong.

The nature of contracting also has elements that are known to lead to mental illness. A study by the University of California found that 72% of entrepreneurs experienced mental health concerns. They coined the term “Founder’s Blues.” That’s because on top of having to excel at your own position, you’re also dealing with running your own business and always thinking about the unknown as you search for the next gig. Adding to the problem is that independent contractors don’t have the same support systems as an employee. There is no HR department with resources and programs, nor is there an option to take a Mental Health Day without giving up pay.

Improving Mental Health Issues in the IT Industry

Many are already recognizing the increased risk of mental health issues in tech. Open Sourcing Mental Illness (OSMI) is a non-profit organization that is created specifically to help those in the tech sector. They conduct regular studies, share data, and provide access to resources around mental well-being. Another organization made up of tech professionals around the world is Prompt, which encourages conversation of mental health in the IT industry. An initiative of the Travis Foundation, Prompt connects speakers on the subject with conference and meetup organizers.

Of course, you do not need to be part of a non-profit organization to help tackle this issue in your industry. Being aware of your own mental health and knowing when to take action and care for yourself is the first step. You can also look out for others and encourage them to take a break when they need it. Watch for symptoms like headaches, being withdrawn, taking time off, missing deadlines, letting work slip, sudden weight loss or gain, and lack of care over personal appearance.

When you take a cough drop and get some extra sleep because your throat is a bit sore, you can prevent a cold that may have knocked you down for a week. Similarly, recognizing symptoms of a mental health issue and acting upon them quickly will prevent it from snowballing into lost work and damaged relationships.

Your Client’s Workplace is Toxic — Time to Get Out!

Your Client’s Workplace is Toxic -- Time to Get Out!

Professionals often go into the gig economy to work for themselves because they don’t want to answer to a boss or manage employees. IT contractors know that, although their company and decisions are their own, they still need to answer to a client and, more dreadfully, work with their employees and put-up with their office shenanigans.

Most client workplaces are great. The weird employees, freeloading team members and awkward individuals will always exist, but for the most part, the environments are bearable and you’re capable of delivering on your requirements. Then, there are those other client sites. The toxic workplaces where nobody is happy, you can’t get anything done and, and it starts to take a toll on your mental health.

How can you tell if you’ve joined an IT project team that’s part of a toxic work environment? There are a number of common signs, many of which are summed up well in this Inc. article. Generally, you’ll notice that a toxic office has low energy and motivation among all the employees. They might seem happy and agreeable, but when you pull back the curtains, you notice that people are gossiping about each other, working in silos and cliques rather than teams, and having unofficial sidebar meetings.

Once you’ve been at the client site for a little longer, additional signs start to pop-up. The lazy people are still getting away with murder, others are getting promoted based on no merit whatsoever, and the few people who were an asset to your project slowly start to leave.

Now the bells are going off and you realize that there is no way you can be successful in an environment like this. Regardless of your experience as an IT contractor, there’s only so much you can do to make technology projects succeed. If the organizational support is not there, you’re sure to crash and burn, and your reputation will take a hit. So, what do you do?

Don’t Give-Up Too Easily

If the contract doesn’t have much time left on it, keep your head down and focus on your deliverables without getting sucked into the drama. Working from home when possible and avoiding the toxic individuals will help.

Cover Your Bases

You also need to think of self-preservation. An environment like this means employees are going to throw you under the bus whenever possible, so you need to be prepared. Document all your work and conversations. When somebody tries to point the blame your way because they didn’t complete a task or messed-up a deliverable, your notes and emails might be your only saviour.

Keep Your Recruiter in the Loop

Staffing agencies bring value to IT contractors in several ways, one of which being that they help you navigate these situations. Let your recruiter know that something’s sour in the environment as soon as you notice it so they can help you find solutions. Most importantly, be upfront if you think leaving might be the only option, providing plenty of notice. This popular post by Morley Surcon includes tips on how to leave a contract early, if it’s absolutely necessary.

A toxic work environment is a brutal place to have to spend 40 hours a week, but unfortunately, they exist across all regions, in all industries. If you find that yourself in one when you start your placement, act fast by either developing your plan to adjust and succeed, or preparing an exit plan that keeps your integrity intact.

Let’s Talk About It… Grief

Breigh Radford By Breigh Radford,
Director, Human Resources at Eagle

Bell Let's TalkToday marks Bell’s Let’s Talk Day with national efforts to remove the stigma of mental health.  It really is a great thing to have in our society, this constant push to talk about our feelings. But how many times do you really talk about stuff?  About the self-loathing, self-doubt, about weird feelings you don’t even know how to articulate let alone deal with?  That stuff is hard. There is no abundance of professionals to help you through plus there is a societal stigma looming over you with a bubble that says “you are a lesser human being” for having them – where do you begin?

With so many areas of mental illness to cover I decided to pick just one:  Grief.  Today marks the anniversary of my brother’s death.  Stephen died, 3 years ago from Pneumonia.  It devastated my family; my parents haven’t been quite the same.  Nor really have any of us.  We had to deal with this loss and with feelings we were not familiar with, together and as a family.  Was this mental illness? Certainly, situational yes; long-term, it could have been.  A normal and important part of life, death has to be dealt with, however uncomfortable.  As well as lots of personal reflection, tears, and of course time, here is how my family dealt with it:

Journal

  • You don’t have to be a journalist to know how to write, it doesn’t even have to make sense or be spell checked, but you can pour your heart out into the pages and feel the relief.
  • Move your words towards a positive viewpoint, entry by entry.
  • Look back to see how far you’ve come, if you think you have not progressed, write about it. Keep writing until nothing else comes to mind, then you’ve had enough — until the next entry

Really Talk it Out

  • Seek out a grief counsellor, many Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) can help in this area with referrals, reference material and support groups.
  • Talk to your family, and friends — really talk to them — be vulnerable, be honest, they will still love you, and your feelings will dissipate.

Take a Step Outside

  • Get physical, grief can affect our whole body, it is a physical and mental loss. One of my siblings had so much rage he hung a punching bag in his garage and punched until he could no more.
  • Take the dog out — again, and again until you too are ‘dog tired’. Sleep will come easier and deeper that way.  Your subconscious will be able process your feelings, a two in one kind of deal!

Allow yourself to feel sad, don’t push the feelings away and don’t self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol.  Keep a healthy menu on hand and give yourself time.  Perhaps for my family the one biggest thing that got us through was our sense of humour and sharing stories of Stephen.  My heart still breaks but now I know ways to deal with that.

How IT Contractors Can Take Better Breaks

All IT contractors can relate to how easy it is to get caught up in a project and let time fly by. You pour back coffee and energy drinks to keep moving towards your end goal and eventually hours have flown by and you haven’t left your computer. You may end those days thinking you maximized your productivity, but did you really? Even if you did, was it enough to justify the negative consequences of skipping a break? According to a ton of recent research, you’re not doing yourself any favours.

Taking a Break is a Good Thing

Study after study has proven that taking a break throughout your day is indeed a good thing. On top of simply being refreshed physically, when you step away from a task that requires a lot of thinking power, it gives your analytical processing skills a break. When you return, your renewed energy — both mentally and physically — allows you to solve problems faster, which in return, boosts your productivity.

But delivering a better solution to your client shouldn’t be your only motivation to take a break. A pause from work is important to your own well being. Accepting that you should have time away from your desk means you’ll open up more time to exercise and eat properly through your day. You can also run some personal errands and tasks, which will free up your evening, ease a stressed out mind, and maximize work-life balance.

How to Take the Best Breaks

We understand. Taking a break is much easier said than done, especially in the IT industry when you have to deal with emergencies, outages and tight deadlines. IT contractors can’t just get up from your desk and leave… or can you? Keep in mind that you are a contractor, and not an employee — you are entitled to work any hours you please as long as you continue to honour the agreement between you and your client. Here are a few tips to take the most effective breaks:

  • Fully detach. When you take a break, turn your mind off completely from the task-at-hand and change your train-of-thought.
  • Move around. This will help with the previous point. Get away from your desk, go outside, and get some exercise.
  • Be social. Breaks are better with others and the social aspect will help you recharge. Just be careful not to distract your client’s employees.
  • Avoid all screens. When you go outside to recharge your batteries and get your mind off things, your phone is going to be a hinderance. If you must bring it with you, put it on silence and turn off email alerts.
  • Take a nap. Research has proven that a quick 20-30 minute nap can have significant health benefits for some people. Meditation is also an option that will clear your mind.
  • Do something else. Perhaps you don’t want to take a full break. Completing entirely separate, irrelevant tasks will let you stay productive AND temporarily break from your current project.
  • Take Microbreaks. Often when we think of a break it’s the traditional 1-hour lunch break, but productivity experts also encourage microbreaks throughout the day. For example, 90 minutes on/20 minutes off or 25 minutes on/5 minutes off.
  • Try any one of these 51 ideas to do when you need a break from The Muse.

Taking breaks isn’t just important at work but everywhere in life. Home DIY projects get done with more care when there are breaks, gamers see more success when they let their mind rest for a few minutes, and resumes are written much more clearly when you review them with a fresh set of eyes. How often do you take a break?

Do You Have the “Winter Blues”? It’s Time to Talk About It

Do You Have the "Winter Blues"? It's Time to Talk About ItLast week, the country’s social media accounts were once again taken over by Bell Let’s Talk, a day encouraging people to discuss mental health issues while raising money for mental health initiatives at the same time. In the spirit of that initiative, let’s talk about one of the most common mental illnesses to hit the workplace this time of year, Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Year-round, independent contractors are concerned with their health.  Not only is there a health concern but also a financial impact when taking unpaid sick days. Especially in the winter, you do whatever you can to avoid a terrible cold or flu but how much are you doing to treat mental health illnesses like SAD? Surely, this is also something that can lead to decreased productivity or prolonged periods of time off.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), SAD, also sometimes known as the Winter Blues, is a type of clinical depression that can last until Spring and is the result of shortening days with less sunlight that result in people feeling extra gloomy. While it’s common for us to have down days, those affected by SAD feel the symptoms for longer periods of time.  Inc. recently published a post describing 9 of these subtle signs:

  1. You’re irritable and sensitive to stress
  2. You get into little arguments
  3. You have low energy
  4. You dread previously enjoyable social activities
  5. You feel a general sense of apathy towards your goals
  6. You have trouble concentrating
  7. Your appetite changes
  8. You have trouble making decisions
  9. You need more recovery time

If you find you experience these symptoms for long periods of time, the CMHA recommends you schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss options. There are a number of treatments including light therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. Melody Wilding, a social worker and blogger committed to helping women overcome emotional challenges of success, also provides 3 quick and simple ways to stave off the winter blues:  Put effort into getting dressed at work, try a negative detox, and bookend your days.

How do you ensure you remain healthy throughout the Winter?

Mental Health Should Be an Everyday Conversation

Are there parallels we can draw from the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements?  These same hashtags could be used to draw attention to Mental Health. I’m sure we can all say #MeToo to the question, “Have you ever suffered from mental health?” And of those who suffer from mental illness, who wouldn’t say “#TimesUp”? The time is up for discrimination against those with mental health issues, the time is up for hiding at home feeling like a failure because you couldn’t drag yourself out of bed because of a heightened state of anxiety, the time is up for being abused and bullied at school or at work because people see you as ‘different’, and the time is up for silence. It IS time to talk!

Bell Let's TalkAnd while Bell Let’s Talk Day is a super initiative, is it enough to just talk about Mental Health once a year? Hell no, it should be an everyday conversation. We have to change society’s mindset, our mindset, and that takes time which is why we need to talk about it now, and every day. For example, some common exchanges should be like this:

  • You to your boss:Can we change the time of the meeting? I can feel a bipolar episode coming on and I need to get to the doctor asap
    Your boss to you:Sure, that’s no problem; I’ll push the date back. Give me an update when you have time and we can talk through what else you need, I here to help you
  • You to a friendI can’t deal with everything on my plate — I’m really overwhelmed and it is getting to me
    Your friend to you:I can see you are upset, I’m going stay with you. Let’s talk more and see if we can find a way to get you through it. Plus we know there is professional help out there if you need it, so you are not alone

We have legislation in place that protects human rights and punishes those who discriminate both for the workplace and for public services but it is our everyday actions that need to be called out. It is our interactions, biases and perceptions we need to correct. Can we get celebrities to talk more freely about their struggles? Can we come up with a ‘catchy’ phrase in 3 words or less that would propel a ‘movement’? We need the people in power to demonstrate the importance of talking about mental health, that it is OK to have mental illness, and that even with a Mental Illness, you can still be a productive member of society and lead a fulfilling life. It is not shameful or weak, it’s the beautiful DNA that no-one else shares — it’s YOU.

We stopped smoking in bars and restaurants, we upped the ante when it comes to drinking and driving, and we are moving forward on the issue of Workplace Sexual Harassment thanks to a bunch of Hollywood celebs. We’ve got this, we can change the world, bit by bit, we can be that change, just by talking, by caring about people, and yes, even by hashtags.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Breigh Radford By Breigh Radford,
Director, Human Resources at Eagle

Let's Talk About Mental HealthIt’s about time we started talking about Mental Health, not just in the workplace but everywhere — at schools, at the dinner table — we need to make it a part of our everyday vernacular.  Why? Why now? Is it just another buzz word?  Hardly.

Mental Health is what it implies: health for the mind. There are too many examples of workplace violence where the root cause, given by officials, is the mental health of the perpetrator.  How many examples have to be given before we take action?  How many people have to suffer in silence before being heard?  How many generations have to go through the pain of stigma? The solution begins with a conversation. Why wouldn’t you want to talk about it… heck, we talk about everything else!

One of the ways we talk about mental health is through our social involvement and sharing our stories.  At Eagle, we encourage a community approach to promote all health.  We partner with a national gym to give staff a membership discount, therefore, boosting physical well-being.  This in turn helps deal with anxiety and depression; it also gets employees involved in another social circle, helping reduce feelings of isolation. We encourage discussions through workshops, have information posted on the company intranet and send the team regular emails on the topic. I myself attended a Mental Health First Aid workshop in order to provide immediate support for anyone who is in crisis.   This all helps create an environment where mental health can be spoken about freely and without stigma.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

There are lots of initiatives to help generate discussion on this subject, with more and more people speaking up and getting involved.  How can you help? Get educated about mental health!  Listen to people in a non-judgemental way; let them talk freely and comfortably about problems.  Help the person feel hope and optimism; it is after all, a real medical condition.  Encourage them to seek help and guidance; there are a ton of effective treatments out there.

Today, January 25th is Bell Let’s Talk Day, where every time you talk, text and join in on social media, Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health initiatives. The goal is to open discussion about mental illness and offer new ideas and hope for those who struggle. In addition, the first week in May is National Mental Health Week. What happens the rest of the year is up to you. How will you join the conversation and help end the stigma on Mental Health?