Transcript: Government of Canada Bell Let's Talk Day 2022: Spotlight on Peer Support
[The Webcast Webdiffusion logo appears.]
[James appears via webcam. As he speaks, a chyron appears momentarily in the bottom-left. It reads “James Kendrick, Ph.D. Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada."]
Good afternoon, bonjour, and welcome to today's event entitled "Government of Canada, Bell Let's Talk Day 2022: Spotlight on Peer Support." We appreciate you making the time and taking the time to join us for this important event. Mental health continues to be a critical issue as we go through COVID and we have a response to the COVID pandemic. It's been well documented that the lines between work-life and home-life have become blurred. Employees faced increased risk of burnout and loss of safe space. There's an increased recognition of the role of the workplace in supporting employee mental health and wellbeing. Today's event brings together subject matter experts and organizational representatives to explain how peer support, be it formal or informal, can help public servants navigate the psychological impacts of COVID-19 at home, at work, and as we move forward. You're gonna hear today about the benefits of workplace Peer Support programmes and how to implement them. And you will gain insights from organizations that have already done so. Bell Let's Talk Day 2022 is organized jointly by the Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace, the Canada School of Public Service, and the Federal Youth Network. Before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge that I'm in Ottawa, on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. I recognize we work in different places across Canada, and therefore you will work in a different traditional indigenous territory. I encourage you right now to take a moment to reflect on this, wherever you may be.
Avant de commencer, j'aimerais partager quelques détails administratifs pour soutenir votre expérience lors de cet évènement. Pour optimiser votre expérience de visionnage, nous vous recommandons de vous déconnecter de votre VPN ou d'utiliser un appareil personnel pour regarder la session lorsque cela est possible.
Please note, we also have simultaneous interpretation, sign language interpretation, and CART services. That's "Communication Access Realtime Translation." These are all available for the event. Please refer to the meeting invites sent by the Canada School to access these features. Today, we'll be taking questions through the Canada School's Collaborate video interface. To do so, go to the right corner of your screen at the top, click the "participate" button, enter your question and your email, and we're gonna try to get to as many of your questions as possible. Folks, I have to tell you something right now. Today's conversation could be sensitive for some of you. Please be reminded that if any point during this conversation, you feel you need mental health assistance, your Employee Assistance Programme is available to you. Please reach out. If you're in crisis, don't wait. Call 911.
J'aimerais souligner ce que j'ai dit en français. La conversation d'aujourd'hui pourrait être délicate pour certains d'entre vous. Nous vous rappelons que si à n'importe quel moment de cette conversation, vous sentez que vous avez besoin d'aide en matière de santé mentale, notre programme d'aide aux employés est à votre disposition. N'hésitez pas à nous contacter. Et si vous êtes en crise, n'attendez pas pour appeler de 911. Maintenant, commençons l'évènement.
[Six chat panels are arranged in two rows of three. As each participant speaks, their panel briefly fills the screen.]
I'm now pleased to introduce Christine Donoghue who's the Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretary of Canada. Christine was appointed Chief Human Resources Officer in May, 2021. Christine arrived from the Canada Revenue Agency, where she'd been Deputy Commissioner Revenue since 2018 in August. She was previously Associate Deputy Minister at Health Canada from 2017 to 2018.
Et précédemment à compter de 2005, Christine avait occupé le poste de sous-ministre adjoint à Ressources naturelles Canada, à l'École de la fonction publique du Canada, à l'Environnement Canada et à la Commission de la fonction publique du Canada où elle avait fait également la fonction de présidente intérimaire.
Ladies and gentlemen, please, a warm welcome to Christine Donoghue.
[Christine is in the bottom-right panel. As she speaks, her chat panel fills the screen. A chyron appears momentarily in the bottom-left. It reads “Christine Donoghue. Treasury Board of Canda Secretariat."]
Thank you so much, James.
D'abord, je veux vous dire à quel point je suis heureuse d'être avec vous et moi aussi je me retrouve sur le territoire non cédé du peuple Anishinabé.
C'est vraiment un privilège pour moi d'être avec vous aujourd'hui, parce que c'est important le message qui est transmis, de se soutenir les uns les autres pour maintenir notre santé mentale. Je dois vous avouer avant de poursuivre, je suis fatiguée et il y a des jours où je voudrais baisser les bras. Heureusement que j'ai mon réseau de soutien sur lequel je peux compter, parce que ça me remonte et ça me démontre que je ne suis pas seule. Et je suis heureuse quand moi-même je peux intervenir auprès de quelqu'un de mon réseau pour aussi remonter le moral à un moment où c'est difficile de travailler dans un contexte de pandémie.
Mental health in the federal government is really, really important to us. But it's not always easy to manoeuvre and to fully understand everything about mental health. But this is important, cause it's the fifth consecutive year that we partner with Bell Canada. It's an important national conversation to promote mental health and awareness in the public service. Bell Let's Talk Day theme, "keep listening, keep talking, and keep being there for ourselves and for each other," really describe what is in fact happening in the public service throughout the pandemic. We've learned to lean on each other and to support one another in a very challenging time. And with today's event, we want to be able to have the support of our peers. We'll be even better equipped to actually continue on. Let's understand that for certain, supporting others is a way of doing things, but let's hope that this conversation will bring others to wanna do so as well. Within the government of Canada, departments promote the need to reach out, checking in and out, connecting virtually with employees and colleagues. Staying connected is so important for our mental health, especially when many of us continue to work virtually. Working virtually is great for some, but sometimes make others suffer from isolation.
C'est plus facile à dire qu'à faire quand on considère la charge de travail que nous avons tous afin de continuer à travailler et de mieux soutenir aussi les Canadiens. Donc il faut être conscients que c'est là qu'on voit qu'un support est vraiment essentiel et que par les réseaux, soit personnels ou professionnels par lesquels on se trouve, ces réseaux-là jouent un rôle déterminant pour chacun d'entre nous. Il existe aussi d'autres ressources pouvant favoriser la santé mentale ou pouvant vous assister dans votre processus de questionnement à l'égard de votre santé mentale. N'oubliez pas le centre d'expertise pour la santé mentale en milieu de travail qui est un portail en ligne sur la COVID-19 et la santé mentale. Ce portail-là vous fournit des outils, du service et du soutien en temps opportuns. Il comprend aussi des conseils sur la façon de prendre soin de votre santé mentale, d'obtenir de l'aide supplémentaire au besoin. Par exemple, comme était mentionné par James, le programme d'aide aux employés et le portail Espace mieux vivre Canada. Ces outils sont accessibles en tout temps, n'importe où et dans n'importe quel appareil. Il faut continuer à se soutenir et à promouvoir ces outils, à porter une attention particulière aux gens qui nous entoure, même virtuellement.
At the end of the Bell Let's Talk campaign, that doesn't mean that it's the end of the critical conversation. Mental health is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Everyone has a role to play when it comes to mental health in the workplace. But it's very important that people feel that they also have the opportunity to be heard and to use their voices, to actually indicate their concerns. Health and safe work environments begin with empathy and with flexibility. So when somebody cries out, be empathetic. Try to put yourself in somebody else's shoes. Walk the talk by looking after your own mental health, and looking out for your colleagues today, tomorrow, and every day. But as I said before, don't hesitate to speak out. So I'm turning it over to our speakers to hear about the different ways that we can personally make a difference in the lives of those around us. And again, encourage everybody to watch for the signals, to watch for your own signals. And like I say, when I'm tired, I do reach out. And when I feel depressed, I do reach out. And it's incredible, the energy and the feeling that that can give you. So thank you for hearing me. Thank you for actually participating and learning more and being more aware of mental health. And on this note, I'll turn it back to you, James.
Christine, I wanna thank you for your heartfelt introductory remarks, and the more than 9,000 people who are tuning in today across the country are looking forward to a great discussion. And that's where we are in our programme now. I'm gonna introduce the panel. I'm gonna do it one at a time. I'm going to invite each panellist to take two or three minutes to introduce themselves, tell us who they are, why they're here, and how they're related somehow to this a topic. And the first panellist I'd like to introduce is Dr. Jessica Ward-King, a founding member of Federal Speakers' Bureau on mental health. Jessica.
[Jessica speaks from the bottom-middle panel in the chat. As she speaks, her chat panel fills the screen. A chyron appears momentarily in the bottom-left. It reads “Jessica Ward-King, Ph.D. Federal Speakers' Bureau on Healthy Workplaces."]
Good afternoon, everybody. I'm so glad to be here. My name is Jessica Ward-King, and I am a person with lived and living experience of mental illness with a diagnosis of bipolar two disorder. I am one of the founding members of the Federal Speakers' Bureau on mental health and a proud public servant for over 12 years. I'm also known as the stigma crusher for my working government, the community, and now on YouTube as well, to combat the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness by sharing my story freely and unabashedly. I'm highly educated, having earned to PhD in experimental psychology, but I'm also highly medicated. If I jump up and down, you may hear me rattle. I have been benefiting from and leading Peer Support initiatives, both inside of government and in the community for over 12 years, and I'm a huge champion of the value of both being a person with mental illness, gaining support, but also giving support, through Peer Support informal and formal networks. I'm so glad to be here today to share my lived and living experience with you. James.
Thank you, Dr. Jessica. Our next panellist is Armaghan Alam. His friends call him Armi. He's a medical student candidate in the class of 2023 at UBC's Faculty of Medicine. He's also the Board Director of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and co-founder Canadian Peer Support Network. Hello, Armi.
[Armi speaks from the bottom-left panel. As he speaks, his chat panel fills the screen. A chyron appears momentarily in the bottom-left. It reads “Armaghan Alam. Mental Health Commission of Canada and Canadian Peer Support Network."]
Hello everyone. It's an honour and a privilege to be speaking with all of you and my esteemed panellists today. As James mentioned, my name is Armi. I consider you all as friends, so you please feel free to call me by that. A little bit about me, background wise, I was born in Pakistan. I grew up in Calgary for many years, and then my family moved to Saudi Arabia where I lived for a few years as well. Then I moved to Toronto for high school. I did my undergraduate degree in anatomy and cell biology at McGill, and that was kind of my first experience with mental health and getting involved with an initiative there called the Peer Support Centre, which I ran for three years and I also was able to really promote the idea of peer support among the faculty and staff there, having seen how it benefited my peers, how it benefited myself as someone with lived experiences of mental health. So, it was an incredibly rewarding experience. At the end of my time at McGill, I decided, "This works. Something about Peer Support works here. We should probably try and bring that to some other places around Canada." So some peers and I founded the Canadian Peer Support Network in the hopes of taking what we learned on the ground, with other students like ourselves and bring it to other institutions across Canada, and that's currently something we are working on very hardly behind the scenes and hoping to propel forward in the future. Today, I'm speaking to you from Vancouver as a third year medical student. I'm privileged to be speaking from the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh traditional territories, where I'm honoured to work and play. And today I'm just excited to really talk about something I'm passionate about with people who are clearly passionate about the same things, and that is peer support. And I look forward to seeing what comes up during our discussion. Back to you, James.
Thank you Armi. Our next panellist is Allison Dunning. She's the National Manager of Peer Support Canada.
[Allison speaks from the top-middle panel. As she speaks, her chat panel fills the screen. A chyron appears momentarily in the bottom-left. It reads “Allison Dunning. Peer Support Canada."]
Hi everybody. I'm so happy to be joining you all today and excited to be here with my fellow panellists. So my name is Allison Dunning. My pronouns are she and her, and I am the National Manager of Peer Support Canada. Previous to this, I had the pleasure of both volunteering and working as a Peer Support worker in the community, and then also leading teams of Peer Support workers in the community, university, and hospital settings. So I am speaking to you from the traditional and unceded territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the Haudenosaunee, and the Huron-Wendat, and I recognize my privilege in being able to do so. I am also a person with lived experience of mental health challenges, so I speak from the perspective of having navigated our mental health system as a white cisgendered female settler. So I try to approach all the work that I do from that lived experience perspective, and really try to incorporate the values of Peer Support into my work and the way I live my life. So Peer Support Canada was created out of a pilot project in 2010 with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, where we set out with the goal of creating and sort of incubating and embedding a set of standards and principles of practise for Peer Support workers. So we've come a long way from there, and currently we're actually going through a strategic planning process just to make sure that we are effectively meeting the needs of the Peer Support community across Canada. Because we really do truly believe in peer support being an essential piece of our mental health system in Canada. But anyways, I'm very happy to see peer support being centred in this discussion today, and looking forward to learning from the audience and my fellow panellists as well.
Thank you, Allison. And our final introduction for panellists this afternoon is Catherine Lauzon, who's the Director of the Mental Health and Wellness Programme at Health Canada. Catherine.
[Catherine speaks from the upper-right panel. As she speaks, her chat panel fills the screen. A chyron appears momentarily in the bottom-left. It reads “Catherine Lauzon. Health Canada."]
Thanks James. (Catherine clears throat) Excuse me. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for inviting me to participate in this very important event. As James mentioned, I am the Director of Mental Health and Wellness for the Corporate Services Branch at Health Canada. And so how did I end up here? Well in 2015, the Deputy Minister of Health instructed all branches to implement the national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace, and the Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services Branch asked me to lead a small implementation team. Since then, we've developed many initiatives to promote workplace mental health, and to support the implementation of the standard. Some of these have included mental health and wellness listening sessions, which are open to all Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada employees.
Notre équipe tient ces sessions pour offrir aux employés de tout le pays,
l'occasion de se connecter et de partager leurs expériences personnelles tout en continuant à adapter à l'impact que la pandémie mondiale a eu sur notre vie personnelle et professionnelle.
We have also launched a number of other initiatives, including weekly emails that provide tips on mental health, trivia questions, links to valuable resources, that alternate between managers and employees, quarterly self care challenges, and of course we piloted Stronger Together, which is our peer support programme. And on that note, James, I'll hand it back over to you. Thank you.
[Shortly after James resumes speaking, Christine exits the chat.]
Well, thank you. What a diverse panel with loads of experience and I think the creators of this event, in partnership with Bell, couldn't have picked a better panel. And so I'm gonna say, let's just jump in. Now here's how it's gonna work, everybody. We've got a few questions to start the discussion going. If you have your own question, I'll remind you again, like we said at the beginning, go to the top right corner of your screen. There's a chat feature question there where you put your question in and your email. We're gonna get to as many of them as possible. With 9,000 now plus participants, it's gonna be a challenge, but we're gonna do our best. So, one of the questions I wanna ask is directed to Allison to start this off. And the question is, peer support does fall along a spectrum, and ranging from say, informal social support to more formal peer support in a structured organizational setting. Very key for us in the public service. To set the stage for today's discussion, can you briefly explain the different types of peer support, how they help positive mental health, and also how do they contribute to mental health recovery?
Yeah, I'd be happy to. So peer support can be as simple and informal as two parents talking to each other about how hard it is to be a parent during the COVID 19 pandemic. So one parent saying, "Wow, I feel completely overwhelmed all of the time." And another. Informal is that, and then also as formal as a paid, multidisciplinary team in a hospital setting, maybe an emergency department and somebody comes in after a suicide attempt, and that peer support worker's there to say, "Hey, I know this is really, really scary, cause I've been in a similar situation. Let's see how we can work this, how I can best support you today through this experience," and then providing some coping strategies and validation and resources while working with the rest of the healthcare team to make sure that that person's getting the support that's most meaningful for them. Peer support services can also exist in a variety of settings. To name a few, you can have peer support services in Drop-In settings, in community centres or in shelters. You can have them as formalized peer support groups within the community, as colleague-to-colleague support in workplaces, which I'm sure we'll talk lots about today. And then also, in university and high school campuses like Armi was talking about. And then also as services within hospital settings, such as inpatient units, outpatient units and emergency departments. So, really there's a huge spectrum of what peer support can look like and where it can exist. And also, peer support is sometimes a standalone service, and sometimes offered in conjunction with other approaches to mental health care, such as psychiatry or therapy or clinical supports. So because peer support is rooted in the lived experience perspective and really the foundation of peer support is, "Hey, I've been in a similar situation, let's talk through it together. Let's work through this together." It really makes a very sort of approachable way of learning about mental health and learning about strategies and coping strategies and resources and stuff like that that you might not think about if you hear it from somebody else. So by talking to somebody who's been there, who's walked that walk, it's a really approachable way of starting this conversation or of continuing the conversation in a way that there's a sense of comfort and respect and self-determination and mutuality and stuff in that relationship that that really makes it a meaningful and supportive interaction. I think that from my experience of both receiving and providing peer support, I think that it really just helps to decrease people's sense of isolation, right? We know that tonnes and tonnes of folks are struggling, but there's still often this sense of, "Man, I'm the only one that can't get this together," or, "I'm the only one that's feeling this way." And you know, when you speak with a peer supporter who can say, "Hey, I get it. I've been there. This is what it was like for me, is this what it was like for you?" That interaction, just that relief of knowing I'm not the only one that's feeling this way can go a really, really long way in somebody's mental health journey. It also helps increase your sense of confidence and being able to navigate this, right? Being able to speak to somebody who's struggled or who's struggling, and watching them being able to cope or have coped with something, it really makes you feel like, "Wow, maybe I can do this. Maybe I can conquer this. Maybe I can live with this disorder or this disease," or however you wanna frame it. And then, lastly, I think it really can also help by reducing some of the dependents on more clinical care. If we're checking in with one another in a workplace setting, in a workplace peer support programme, it might have the chance to alleviate some of the pressures that we're seeing on the rest of the healthcare system. Not always, of course, but often I think having a friendly person you can go to at work and a friendly voice you can check in with can help to sort of decrease that sense of isolation and can prevent us from ending up in that crisis situation. So just to sum up, I know I've sort of gone a little bit all over the place, but just to sum up, I think everything on the spectrum at peer support is meaningful, right? Sometimes it's really helpful for me to call a friend after a breakup and say, "This is really brutal. Help me out," and have that friend sort of pump me up and send me really good song or, you know, go for a walk with me or whatever that is. And then sometimes those formal supports, when you need it the most, when you enter that crisis situation, you feel really overwhelmed and really terrified about what's going on. I think everything on that spectrum can really help decrease our sense of aloneness in dealing with this and increase our sense of capacity to cope with what's going on.
Allison, what I really appreciate about your comprehensive response is that there is this spectrum. I can't wait to delve in a bit deeper as we go through the programme today. But you know, if everybody knew where to go for support, there wouldn't be a need to build awareness. And, you know, the formal approach might not be even reachable for some people cause they don't know where to go. But you've stressed the informal. So reaching out to friends, family, or whoever. A trusted advisor or support network I think is critical, and that came through in your answer. I'd like to go to Jessica now, if possible, to ask you about the experience going through the pandemic. We've heard tonnes about the importance of trying to maintain some form of social connection for mental health. And here we are online today. But it's the best we can do given the situation. How has peer support, whether it's informal or formal, helped you manage your own mental health during the pandemic?
Yeah, it's a great question. So the pandemic has brought with it some very specific challenges that are shared by, if not every single person, a lot of people, isolation being one of the main ones. I think Allison, you did a great job of highlighting that. And peer support really helps with isolation. So I know for me, one of my major struggles, apart from the actual illness that I live with, is with self stigma. And that is kind of applying to myself those stigmatising attitudes that we hold in culture, like mental illness equates with weakness or laziness or brokenness or somehow unpredictability or even violence. And that self stigma leads to me, and I struggle with it constantly, despite being a stigma crusher. And it leads to me not seeking help when I need it. But peer support, because for one thing it can be so informal as having a coffee chat with someone, having a walk around the block with a neighbour, is much more accessible than sometimes for me going the formal route and accessing my medical care team. Medical care teams aren't always available and they're not available perhaps on weekends, things like that, and friends and family members are. Now I know I originally struggled with anybody knowing about my mental illness. I struggled initially with even admitting it to myself. But I was afraid that if anybody found out, that my family and friends, relationships would be strained, that my career might be over. That hasn't turned out to be the case. As you can see, I'm speaking today in front of 9,000 people in the federal Public Service and I have no doubt that I've reached even more people in the past, and my career hasn't stalled. But peer support has really helped me to do that four ways. So it's decreased the isolation, as I mentioned. It's also helped me with some problem solving. Finding out how other people who have lived and living experience of mental illnesses, because they're experts in their own experience, that peer support allows me to tap into the ways that they have addressed problems that their mental illness and mental health has affected their lives. It enables me to see that people have gone through similar things to me, and they've come out the other end and they live in recovery. And of course recovery doesn't mean that it's over, it's done, it's finished, we're done, but it's a constant state that you live in, some kind of state of recovery, trying to live with and come to terms with the illness or the mental health challenges that you're living through. So learning how to cope with those troubling symptoms has been a real boon of peer support for me. Another piece that I wanted to mention was that piece of self efficacy. So quite often when I'm in a depressive state, for example, I don't have a single good thing to say to or about myself. I have negative self talk all the time going on in my head, but when a peer reaches out and reaches out to me for support, I suddenly feel like sharing my own experience makes what I'm living through worthwhile, and it gives me a sense of purpose and the sense that I can be a contributing member to my relationships, that even though I'm struggling, I have worthwhile things to share and worthwhile things to say. And it makes me feel like I have something to give, sometimes even something to live for, like I'm an equal partner in positive relationships. Another piece that I wanted to highlight is the whole fact of mental health positive contact. So we do know that the best way to reduce mental health stigma is through what we call "contact." And it's because stigma is made up of knowledge, behaviours and attitudes, and knowledge can be addressed with education. Something like this Bell Let's Talk Day can teach people about mental illness. And we can legislate proper behaviour. You can't discriminate against a person on the basis of their mental illness, for example. But attitudes are so much more difficult to shift, and contact is crucial. And what contact is, is sharing my experience with others, sharing the troubles that helps both me and my peers to see each other as complete humans. It leads to attitude change by addressing those harmful stereotypes and cultural stigma one-on-one, one person at a time, and provides a proof to peers that people living with mental illnesses are people first, and that they're complex multifaceted people that have strengths and challenges, the ability to participate equally in interpersonal relationships and really, you know, have something to provide for, for humanity and for society. And once you get to know that your colleague is struggling with a mental illness, and that they're a competent employee, a mother, a wife, an avid hockey player, suddenly mental illness isn't this big nebulous thing that people either have or don't and is possibly scary, but it's something that's very, very human. When peers can support one another, even peers that don't have mental illness per se, but are going through their own mental health struggles. And COVID-19 is a perfect example of this. We are basically all struggling with some form of anxiety, with some isolation, with some feelings of sadness, of doubt, of fear, and once you get to know other people's struggle, those stigmatizing attitudes tend to just fall away and you realize that your attitudes just didn't live up to reality, and person by person that mental health stigma can give way to understanding and to acceptance. Now, peer support can't be used in place of therapy necessarily, but as Allison mentioned, it's a really big support to more traditional mental health services, and allows family, friends, and colleagues to support one another and to receive support from one another as well. So, in sum, it's those four things, that sense of isolation that peer support helps us overcome, the problem solving that can be shared amongst people that are living with mental health challenges or mental illness, the increase in self-efficacy that we get when we are able to share our story and have that be meaningful to others, and the mental health positive contact that directly reduces the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness.
Jessica, you've done a great job laying out the framework, the four points you mentioned, and the social connection tools, if you like. Armi, I'd like to ask you a question now. In your intro, you mentioned, besides what you're doing professionally, you have this burning desire to help socially by making it possible for more people to connect in a broader way. And I'd like to ask you what advice or tips would you give somebody looking for emotional support, maybe to provide to a work colleague as an example. Could you tell us what to avoid, what to do about informal peer support in the workplace?
Thanks, James. I'm so grateful for this question, because this is really what I spent a lot of time trying to, like you're working, you're a student and someone reaches out, where you can have a meaningful discussion and a safe conversation. So a few things come to mind. First of all, you have to recognize as Jessica and Allison have kind of alluded to, that you're not a clinician. You're not a psychiatrist. You're not a psychotherapist. You're a colleague, you're a peer. That's not to say that that doesn't come with inherent benefits to your peer, but you have to recognize that there's certain things you won't be able to do and that's okay. That's the whole point, in fact. The second piece. So the second piece is confidentiality. That's a very important and central theme to peer support, especially in the workplace, especially in a place like schools and universities, but it comes with a bit of an asterisk, and that's in the sense that what you want to really get across to whoever you're speaking to is that what you'll be discussing is confidential and that you can share things safely with that person, but if there's any evidence or concern that there might be risk of harm to yourself or others, that you might be obligated to reach out for more professional help and reach out so that you can make sure you connect that person to the appropriate resources. That's very important. I think laying that out at the start or where it's appropriate in a conversation when you're supporting a colleague, can be very helpful. Then it kind of goes into, well, what do you do? You've laid down the framework, now how do you really create an environment where they can feel open, and that kind of takes us to this concept of being non-judgmental. They're gonna share things that are very personal, they may share things that are very personal, makes it important that you allow them to feel that they're not going to be judged for what they share with you. And that kind of goes hand in hand with the theory I've often kind of promoted in peer support when I was developing trainings at McGill, this idea of unconditional positive, this idea, it's by humanistic, I feel like I'm cutting in and out, but I will continue. It's this idea of unconditional positive regard, which is popularized by Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist. And basically it's this idea that no matter what someone says or does, you are there to support them, you are there to accept them, and you are there to understand them. And that's a really important, I think, foundational theory to. Yeah, I just see that I'm cutting in and out. That's a really important theory to peer support, that idea that no matter what someone says or shares with you, that they will be accepted and understood. So that's very important. The next piece is what Allison and Jessica mentioned, is your shared experiences are what's gonna really benefit the person you're talking to, that you're able to say, "I've been there too. You're not alone." And kind of normalize how they're feeling and normalize what they're going through, because it can be very isolating when you're struggling with mental illness, and being able to talk to someone, and be told and be shown that they aren't going through this alone can be very valuable. I often get a lot of questions about advice. "Can I give advice? Is advice appropriate, given different scenarios?" And, you know, I really say, "You know best," but oftentimes, advice can be your own perceptions and your own thoughts, entering a space where really I think the primary goal of a peer support session that you are listening, you are allowing them to share their own thoughts, their own concerns. And by providing advice, you may input your own views and your own perspectives, whereas really what you want them to do allow them explore their own perspectives and their own thoughts on their own problems. And then finally, two pieces, that you wanna be able to get them some resources. So what I really urge everyone to do is, get familiar with the resources available around you, within your institution, within your workplace, but also within your communities and the cities you live. So that once you've had an opportunity to hear this person out, create a space where they feel safe sharing things with you, you can connect them with other resources that might provide them additional support. And then finally, know your limitations. Kind of going back to the fact that you're not a clinician. Know that there's some who are not able to support them, and that's okay. Someone disclosed for example, suicidality to you, and you are in a position to really provide support, but you also have to know that additional support is gonna be required, and it's okay to reach out and to say, "I think that we can work together and incorporate some other types of support, clinical types of support in this." And then lastly, something that I often hear is like, "You know, I listen, I think I provided peer support, but I don't feel like I did anything. I feel like I didn't accomplish anything." So I just wanna say know your impact. The irony is a lot of times as a peer supporter you feel like you haven't done much, but when you speak to the people who have been supported, they'll often say, "Well it just felt so nice to be listened to. And that made all the difference." So I really, really want you to keep in mind that your impact goes far and beyond what you might perceive it to be. Oh, I believe you're muted, James.
Oh, I'm so sorry. No, I'm back in. Can everybody hear me? Okay. You were cutting in and out Armi, but I think the gist of what you said, we got. And what's common now with what Jessica and Allison also said, is this whole human component, this human dimension. And what you said at the end, Armi, was extremely important, is that we don't know the impact we have and sometimes it's not so much even what we say or the quality of what we think, but just being there as someone to connect with, going back to the social connection. And you've laid out quite a bit of ground for us to discuss and explore further, and I can see questions coming in already on positive advice and tips to help make that work. The next question I have is for Catherine. Catherine's at Health Canada as she said in her introduction, and "Catherine at Health Canada, your team has developed and launched a peer support programme in the workplace during the pandemic. Could you tell us a little about the challenges that you encountered? How successfully was the transition? How did you make the case for the programme? How did you transition to implementing it? And are there any lessons learned from your experience? I know it's early days, but maybe you can share some of that."
Wonderful question and thank you, James. We certainly did have challenges along the way.
Et je vais répondre à cette question en français. Donc, premièrement, j'ai eu la chance d'avoir une sous-ministre adjointe et une sous-ministre, qui accordaient une grande importance à... le nombre, j'ai parlé de « national standards » tout à l'heure et qui étaient enthousiastes à l'idée de mettre en œuvre. Nous avions également rencontré les syndicats et obtenu leur appui. Toutes ces personnes reconnaissaient l'importance et la pertinence d'un programme de soutien par l'État. Comme Mme Donahue a mentionné tantôt, la santé mentale et le mieux- être sont deux priorités du gouvernement. Et nous avons pu apprendre d'autres organisations du gouvernement qui avaient réussi à instaurer un tel programme avant nous. Comme Nav Canada, Emplois et développement social Canada et l'Agence canadienne d'inspection des aliments. Il est devenu très important que la pandémie nuisait à la santé mentale des employés et que nous devions en faire plus pour nous aider- pour aider nos employés à traverser cette période difficile. Un programme de soutien par [indistinct] était un excellent outil à ajouter aux services déjà mis à la disposition de nos employés. Nos invitations aux séances d'information sur le programme ont été envoyées aux employés et aux gestionnaires, le 4 mars 2020. Quelques jours avant que nous recevions l'ordre de travailler à la maison. Qui aurait pu le savoir ? Évidemment, la pandémie nous a forcé à revoir nos méthodes et nos calendriers. Et je cherche… Nous avons reporté la date limite pour présenter une candidature de [indistinct]. Les employés étaient encore en train de s'adapter au travail à la maison et n'avaient ni le temps ni l'énergie pour remplir les formulaires de pré-sélection. En repoussant la date limite du début de juin à la fin d'août, nous avons pu promouvoir les avantages de soutien par les pairs et permettre aux employés de bien réfléchir à leur désir de participer ou non au processus de sélection de formation et d'entrevue. Nous avons également offert la formation en ligne plutôt qu'en personne et prolongé la période de formation pour éviter les effets de l'épuisement virtuel « Zoom fatigue » en anglais, chez les employés. Ça c'était quelque chose de très important. Au départ nous avions prévu choisir et former des [indistinct] en l'espace de six mois après l'envoi de courriels de lancement, mais des retards provoqués par la pandémie ont fait en sorte que les noms des [indistinct] du programme ont été annoncé le 10 décembre 2020. Soit huit mois après l'envoi du courriel de lancement original. Pour aider les [indistinct] à rester motivés et afin de leur offrir une formation continue, nous avons organisé des réunions mensuelles de la communité de pratique. Nous avons aussi organisé des activités pour tous les employés de la direction générale, notamment, une discussion de groupe avec les [indistinct] sur le pouvoir des rapports humains sur le bien-être et un autre sur les bienfaits de prendre soin de soi. Par ailleurs, nous avons demandé à nos [indistinct] et aux membres de notre comité consultatif d'ambassadeur de la santé mentale, soit environs, 75 employés, de nous aider à créer un logo pour le programme. Ce logo apparaitra dans tous nos produits de communication et nous l'utiliserons comme arrière-plan, aujourd'hui par exemple, arrière-plan lors de toutes les activités pertinentes. Dans l'ensemble, malgré les retards provoqués en cours de route par la pandémie, nous sommes très, très, très heureux d'avoir réussi à lancer notre programme pilote de soutien [indistinct] à la direction générale de services de gestion de Santé Canada. Et je vais laisser à ça. Merci.
Back to you, James.
Merci Catherine pour avoir partagé les certains défis et succès au sein du programme Santé Canada.
The next question I have is a general one, cause you've all spoken to it. And the question is, "In terms of peer support, we've seen the scale that was presented. Can this be successfully done in the workplace by employees?" In other words, can peer support be employee driven? And I imagine part of that is formal, probably informal, but maybe without the structure of an organizational setting or environment. What's been your experience, and you can, maybe I'll ask if you have any thoughts. Maybe I'll start with Allison.
Sure. Yeah, absolutely. I'll be transparent in that the majority of my experiences is in the mental health community space, so I'll definitely leave time for my colleagues here to speak more specifically, but I've done a lot of peer support programmes, implementation and things like that, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. And I think that one of the lessons I've learned is that it works most effectively when it's thought of, dreamed up of, created by, led by the people that are going to use the service themselves. So, in a workplace environment, to support worker-to-worker mental health, it's going to probably be most successful when it's dreamed up by the folks that are gonna be actually using the service themselves. I agree that some organizational backing and some resourcing from the organization to support what the colleagues and staff members are trying to do is obviously very helpful when you're trying to do something like this, but I absolutely believe in the power of the people and of people's ability to sort of take control and take something like this under their own reigns. And obviously I would encourage them of reach out to those that have done it before and reach out to organizations such as Peer Support Canada to get some guidance and best practises and things like that on how to do it. But I wholeheartedly believe in people being able to set this up for themselves.
Thank you, Allison. Jessica, do you have anything to share in your experience?
Absolutely, I do. So I truly believe that employees can and probably should be the main thrust and the main drivers behind peer support in the federal government or any workplace, really, because it's the benefit of those, whether it's formal or informal, those reciprocal relationships between peers that is the benefit. So let me make clear, leadership needs to be behind it 100%. They need to walk the talk in terms of encouraging and in fact, building into the day, time for employees to make those peer-to-peer connections. It's not like it was when we were all in the office. When you could pop by somebody's cubicle and say, "Hey, do you wanna go down and grab a coffee," or "Let's go to the local lunch spot and just have a chitchat." Now you have to actually try to make a teams meeting and schedule it in, try to shoehorn 15 minutes here or there and make it an informal chat and not make it go right towards work, and it's a lot more difficult during virtual or hybrid workspaces. And that's how it's going to be, let's face it. So we do need to make a model of making that time, perhaps allowing for 15 minutes in between meetings. We so often nowadays just go literally meeting to meeting, click, click, click, click. There's no walking to the elevator. There's no grabbing a coffee. There's none of that. And so if leadership can show that they're building in time for people to make those more informal connections, and also if there is a formal peer support programme in place, or if there's one that the employees want, to make sure you resource that. You can't say, "Yes, do peer support. And just do it off the side of your desk," cause peer support's hard to get going. It's difficult to make sure people are comfortable, that they're adequately trained. There are low cost and high yield courses and trainings that folks can take, but they do cost some money and they also cost some time from the employees. There's also the issue of stigma to deal with, and if leadership is showing that, admitting or talking about mental health challenges is not in fact difficult for your career, that it is in fact a positive thing, that goes a long way in order to make employees feel secure and comfortable in providing peer support services, and in partaking in them as well. We really do need to make a culture of peer support, a culture where making interpersonal relationships, that contact I talk about, is one of the key things we do in our day. It is so important now during COVID, and when we go "back" to a more hybrid workspace as well, it's gonna be really important. I would definitely say employees need to be the driver of this, but leadership does need to take responsibility for making sure that it works.
Thanks, Jessica. I was going to ask Allison as well. If you could share your experience, do you think this support network can be driven?
Sorry? Can you say that again, James?
Sorry. Do you think this type of employee, this peer support can be employee driven in the workplace?
Yeah, I don't question it. Just as Jessica said, I agree with everything that was said. I think that, yeah, the employees are the ones that would benefit from the service, and therefore they should be the ones defining what it looks like and what it feels like. So I think it can be absolutely driven by them, but when they ask for those resources or they ask for that training, that needs to be supported and encouraged, and those needs need to be heard, because peer support is a difficult job, right? So we also have to think about the taxing emotional labour that we're asking of those employees to take on, and in doing this supportive work for their colleagues, we have to compensate them for that. So I think it's absolutely possible and there's a lot of considerations that have to come with it, but absolutely I'm a big believer in employees driving the message and driving the demand for peer support services.
And Armi, did you have anything to add to that topic? That response?
Absolutely. I mean, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think Jessica and Allison really hit the nail on the head in terms of where it has to go, and as I've kind of mentioned in my story, I'm a very firm believer of this ground up approach where the students, or in this case the employees, recognize the need. They push for it, they ask for it, and they have to show the passion to want to have it and acknowledge the value it'll bring. And I don't think there's any doubt that peer support is valuable. So that piece is crucial, because you have to really be willing to put in the work that comes in with that as well. At the same time, it's crucial that leadership be supportive, and that, as Jessica said, that also is work, like that requires taking responsibility and supporting the initiative that employees are bringing to the table. Just as a kind of tangible example, when I was at McGill, we had our Peer Support programme that provided support to students, but we recognize that within our own organization, like there had to be some sort, I mean, these students were just students who were talking to strangers about very personal, very, at times, distressing things. So we needed to have a peer support for our peer supporters, so they would feel like they had somewhere where they could talk to and debrief. And what was really important there is, we created the framework for it, but we really had to push our volunteers to take advantage of that. And at the start, it was slow. And over time, as people began to see the value of that approach and be comfortable in reaching out to their peers in that setting and be able to converse, and really utilizing the resource that was available to them, I think it really bolstered the impact that it had and the overall wellbeing of our volunteers and employees. Just really reiterating the importance of it. It's that ground up grassroots approach, I think, that really does it.
Thank you, Armi. Catherine, I'm gonna shift this a little bit. Inside Health Canada, you set up, as you mentioned, the workplace Peer Support programme. All kinds of challenges, which I'm sure there are more than you listed. You know, it requires impetus, it requires someone to champion it, it requires connecting the dots, it requires support, it requires lots and lots of energy, communication, awareness, making it part of the business, so to speak. And the question I'd like to ask is, with all of that, what are the benefits from both the participant perspective, and also the organizational perspective when you implement a kind of formal peer support programme in the workplace from your point of view?
Thanks, James. And I think I'm gonna shift the question back a little bit to the earlier question too, just cause I did have a couple of things I'd like to add, and I think I agree with everyone that informal peer support takes place every day and regularly in the workplace, in the sense that colleagues discuss with each other their workload, their family, challenges, responsibilities, and I think that they share and offer support and advice on a regular basis based on their own personal experiences. Things they've heard, things they've read.
La grande différence est la raison pour laquelle je pense qu'un programme formel de soutien par [indistinct] est si important. C'est premièrement les étapes de sélection et la formation que les pairs aidants reçoivent. Ainsi que le fait que le pair aidant formé a trouvé son chemin vers la guérison et veut aussi aider les autres à trouver leur propre chemin.
There is a lot of work put into selection and training of these individuals in the workplace who volunteer to be a part of our Peer Support roster based on their lived and living experience. They have the opportunity to participate, as I mentioned earlier, in a community of practise where they get ongoing support and training. Again, very, very important. And individuals in the workplace are able to reach out to Peer Supporters based on the type of lived or living experience that they've had, and connect with people that they think they're gonna resonate with, if you will, or someone who's going to understand their own experience based on the journey that they've already been on. I think as Allison mentioned earlier, everything on the peer support spectrum is meaningful, whether it's informal or offered in a more formal context. I think we believe that offering, the process of screening, interviewing, training, Peer Supporters in the workplace provides that additional dimension and support that a lot of employees are looking for. Hopefully I've touched on both.
Thank you, Catherine. Going back to Jessica. Did you wanna touch on the formal programme? Your views on the benefits for the organization, maybe as well as the employees. I know you spoke to it earlier.
There we go. I'm on mute now. Yeah, absolutely. So the informal, I've spoken about kind of at length in terms of those coffee chats, those lunch chats, those popping into the cubicle and now trying to make time for them on teams, but in terms of a more formal approach to peer support, I've been involved in creating peer support programmes. One when I was at the Royal Military College for the employees of the Military College, and that was almost 12 years ago now. So it was even before peer support was starting to really come into its own. I find that there's real benefit to the formality because people know where to go for a safe space and employees are encouraged to take that on. And so it's not just trying to feel your colleagues out, but it's really knowing where there are folks that have those lived and living experiences that you can tap into and that you can really build a relationship around. And it's helpful, particularly for folks that maybe don't feel comfortable talking to their most close colleagues, perhaps they they'd like to keep a little bit of an arms length in terms of their own personal experiences with their colleagues, or perhaps they feel like their colleagues don't really have the lived or living experience that they're looking for. But they're able to tap into folks that have volunteered themselves to be peers in a more formalized peer support network. And I think that that's the pilot that's going on there with Catherine at Health Canada that's so very, very exciting. There's even a model of mental health first positive contact that is almost like a positive spaces programme. So when we are in the office, at least being able to kind of put up your little shingle on your cubicle and say like, "I'm someone who is comfortable talking about mental health." So that model is a little bit more informal than your formal peer support, but more formal than just having a chitchat. So there's a whole spectrum, really, is my point in terms of formality, and you can move it. It's absolutely possible to move along that model, along that spectrum. And you'll get folks that are volunteering to be Peer Supporters after they've experienced informal peer support and found that it's been helpful, so really you can move along that spectrum, and need to move along that spectrum as the needs of the employees change and grow throughout the process. And as Armi referred to, their needs to be peer support for the peer supporters. Every counsellor, every psychologist, every psychiatrist has their own network of support because dealing with mental health issues can be really heavy and can be really difficult and you don't always know what to do or what to say. And a similar thing is there for peer support. So having a real spectrum of formality in terms of, the grassroots, yes, but also having a programme where people can access peers that are a little bit more distal to them, a little further away. And you get those other experiences from other members of your department, or even hopefully someday, in terms of the national, the federal public service, being able to reach out to people that are quite far away from you and have quite different experiences. That's really valuable for peers as well.
Thank you, Jessica. Armi, I'm gonna go back to you. As the co-founder of the Canadian Peer Support network, could you tell us how your organization, or that entity, could help federal public servants with peer support, as an example?
Absolutely. I will admit we're early. Like we are still developing the material that we really wanna bring to the table, but there's a couple things. The first thing we're kind of working on is a guidebook. What are the key concepts in peer support in an organized fashion? And having created a formal peer support structure, at an institution, what sorts of things did we need to be aware of? Once you start getting into the nitty gritty, as I'm sure Allison and Jessica and Catherine are aware, then you have to start thinking of things like risk management, crisis management, these are important things that any formal peer support programme has to incorporate. And what we are hoping to develop is, is a set of guidelines that really address each of these points. In conjunction with that, in conjunction with a guidebook, we also wanna develop more training. So our training, we're trying to make it vague in the sense that it's applicable to a variety of different institutions. Obviously my team's experience mainly stems from youth and from university settings, but the irony of that is, the stigmatization tends to be highest in those sorts of settings. And the barriers to access and support tend to be highest, as well as having the highest rates of mental illness. I mean, a lot of mental illnesses first present themselves at that age. So we're faced with unique challenges that our peer supporters have to manage at that level. I'm very confident that the training we are looking to develop, and we are working on developing now, is going to be very applicable to a wide variety of different institutions. So I guess my short answer is stay tuned. As of right now, we're still working on the material. If you have ideas or comments or thoughts based on what we've discussed today, I wanna hear them. We're hoping to really develop training and guidelines so that institutions have framework on how to develop a method that works for them. Maybe that's the last thing I'll say, is just peer support is different at different institutions. Size matters. The structure matters. The hierarchy matters. So for peer support to work, it's not gonna be a one size fits all. And that's why, as it's been alluded, peer supporters, the value is there, the impact is huge, but it is work. And there needs to be commitment from everyone involved to really accomplish this beautiful thing that is peer support.
I wanna ask Allison fairly soon about the Peer Support Canada initiative as well, but before I get there, one of the things I've observed and what people tell me is, when you take something that's informal, where maybe it's employee driven and it's kind of self-organized, you kind of need that organizational support and perhaps maybe even an organizational champion to make sure it's top of mind, you get the resources, people pay attention to it. The flip side of that though is, I've also seen where, because of that bureaucratic intervention in an initiative that was kind of grassroots, it sometimes almost dampens and delays, and sometimes kills the initiative because there's too many rules and processes put in place. I'd just like to find out from your experiences collectively, if you have a view on that. How much should something be "institutionalized" I guess is what I'm saying, versus that grassroots approach. And again, that's a spectrum on itself, in terms of the administrative oversight, the accountability, the responsibility, and ultimately perhaps funding if it's built into a programme. And maybe I'll start with Catherine.
Thank you, James. And an excellent question, too. I guess as I mentioned earlier, our organization, very early on, provided tremendous support to the idea of the benefits of having a peer support programme in place, at Health Canada and the Public Health Agency. So, top down. Our Deputy Minister, our assistant deputy ministers, as I said, we met with the unions, and based on what everyone has already said and presented today, the evidence is really clear in terms of support, the value of peer support in the workplace. As I said, we had tremendous support for the idea, both in terms of resources and associated finances for developing and implementing a peer support programme. We did a lot of promotion and communication across the organization to garner interest among the employees. And again, that wasn't difficult, because looking at, and we really presented it as another resource and tool, in terms of the spectrum of mental health resources that were already available to employees. So there was interest from the perspective of employees in the workplace who had had lived and living experience, who felt they had a lot to offer, and wanted to be a part of a programme, a workplace programme where they were able to give back to others. And I can tell you, the number of people who volunteered to be a part, who submitted their interest in terms of who went through this selection, interview process, training process, was from all levels of the organization. We have director generals who have gone through the process of becoming peer supporters, and are now on the roster of being able to offer support to employees. As I said, there was tremendous support at all levels. We did a lot of work and continue to do a lot of work in terms of promotion and communication around the benefit and the value of peer support to employees, so that they see it as an alternate resource in terms of the toolbox of resources already available. They're able to select it when appropriate. And we're in a position to provide, James, a lot of support to the individuals who have gone through that process of volunteering to become peer supporters in our organization, in terms of that community of practise, support, and training, to keep them interested, engaged, and to provide them with the support necessary to deal with any issue issues or concerns they might be having in their role or capacity of peer supporter, that included developing a very, very detailed policy document, which outlines everything, from dealing with issues around confidentiality and so on and so forth. So collectively, a lot of time and energy went into it. Our peer supporters are supported by their managers for the work that they do. And I can say it's been highly valued and appreciated by all of our employees.
Thank you, Catherine. Armi, did you have something to add?
I think the only thing I wanted to add is just that the other thing to recognize in terms of a leadership perspective is, it's well known and well documented that mental health, mental illness is a leading reason for sick days and a leading barrier to productivity and an "efficient" workplace. So it really is like what Catherine was mentioning too in terms of the value that peer support brings, putting in the effort and the time to develop a programme like this, in the long run it really does benefit the organization, your institution, it benefits your employees. You're gonna have more impact and more outcomes by pursuing this. And I just wanted to reiterate that, cause I remember you mentioned the bureaucracy and the challenges, and I remember at like universities, it can be very tough to really reiterate how important mental health is to administrators, or to faculty members who aren't familiar with what it is to be an 18, 19, a teen, or young adult today. And really at the end of the day, an institution, like any workplace, at the end of the day, you want to create and develop capable and confident and resourceful and resilient employees that are able to contribute to the organization and continue to grow as individuals throughout their life. Yeah, just a thought that I wanted to reiterate.
I get it. Thanks for your contribution again. Before I go to Allison, Jessica, any thoughts on that topic?
Well, I can actually give a really great example of a grassroots organization that did get bureaucratized, but successfully, and that is the Federal Speakers' Bureau. So the Federal Speakers' Bureau on mental health was conceived of and born out of the brainchild of two federal public servants, and they began it off the side of the desk, very informally, and it's now housed at the centre of expertise on mental health in the workplace. And it has very successfully, in my opinion at least, undergone the transition. So, Danielle and Jean-Francois' brainchild has become something that is actually edified within the public service and is growing day by day, but has maintained its grassroots thrust, and I guess relevancy in terms of continuing to reach out to public servants, to find out what it is that they're wanting, to find out what the speakers are needing and wanting to speak about, by employing people that have that lived and living experience to work on the project, by not taking it out of the hands of its creators. And so it's absolutely possible for these kinds of initiatives to be very successfully built into the government machine. But it does take some doing and it takes some will to do that, because you're right. It can very quickly become all about the terms of reference and committee this and committee that, and champion this and champion that. And "Whose idea was this in the first place? Oh, well, who cares." And I think that that's largely what puts the fire out in people, that fire in your belly to do something that's meaningful, it can really quickly be put out if the bureaucracy does overtake the meaning and the purpose behind it. So I know for myself as a peer supporter, if I can feel like I am making a difference in at even one person's life or experience, then that's what's meaningful for me. And so, any bureaucratization of peer support that allows me to continue to feel that, to continue to feel like I'm making a difference, is likely going to be a successful one. And so I think Allison has mentioned it before, that it's hard and sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes you'll try to put together a peer support network, and for whatever reason, whether it's the culture of the organization you are in, or whether it's simply, at that moment there are pressures on the workforce that don't make it conducive to being able to take some time out from their workspace and do something that is more off the side of their desk, or even if it's resourced, if there are pressures like that, you may find that that peer support model doesn't work. And I really applauded Catherine's group for putting together a peer support programme during the pandemic, when we know chronic overwork is a huge thing in the public service. It's a huge thing everywhere these days. We know that work-life balance is very unbalanced when you can just kind of stumble into your office on the weekend and check your emails. And we know that people are oversubscribed, and that's when people need mental health supports and particularly peer support most, but it's also when they're least able to have the bandwidth to get it. And so I have great hope for the programme at Health Canada. It's been able to launch during the pandemic, and it's been working during the pandemic, and heck if it can work during global pandemic that's once in a hundred years, I have great hope that it's going into work when we move into the future of work in the virtual and hybrid workspace. So yeah, I think bureaucratization can harm a programme, but it can also give it that gravitas, that resourcing that it needs, the kind of legitimacy that it often needs, and I think this can be done successfully. We might fail once or twice, but I think we will get there.
Thanks, Jessica. A couple of observations. I work at the Association of Professional Executives for the Public Service of Canada. We're a group that actively works with the 7,000 plus executives in the core public administration and a bit beyond that. And you know what? These issues impact executives as much as everybody else in the public service and sometimes we forget it. And going back to the bureaucratization kind of argument, it seems to me that, from what everybody's said, this isn't like flicking on a switch and then light suddenly appears. This is hard slogging work to set something up. And it seems to me, it's probably striking that balance so that it does reach different levels of the organization. It takes some time to do that. And in order to do that, you need some type of bureaucracy to make it more permanent, because if the players change, you would want this entity to continue working and doing what it's supposed to be doing. However, not over bureaucratizing, putting in rules, procedures that would kind of "dampen," if you like, the initiative, the spark that was there at the beginning. I don't think there's an answer to this. I just wanted to see your point of view of it, and some of these initiatives are nascent. Others are evolving through the natural life cycle of an initiative, and it's just fascinating. I wanted to go to Allison and ask you about Peer Support Canada. And in terms of that initiative, what kinds of help can you provide federal public service folks, and how do you do that?
Yeah, it's an interesting time to be asking us this question, because we are in the middle of strategic planning and just trying to sort out how we can be most useful to anyone that's looking to enter into the even semi-formal peer support space. So that includes any individuals that are looking to maybe start up a peer support network in their department, departments as a whole that are looking to sort of create a space for colleague-to-colleague to support. So we can help with the implementation, dreaming up, evaluation, and the ongoing support of those types of programmes, but also we're really keen to hear from the public servants how we can support them with the peer support endeavours that they're taking on. So it's a good time to be asking us cause we're open to ideas, but in general, Peer Support Canada, our goal is to make sure that peer support is a centralized and integral part of our healthcare system, and that includes workplaces. I think in the past, maybe workplaces would not have been included within that definition, but I think that today we recognize that it needs to be, because work is where we spend all of our time and therefore, if we're gonna address mental health even remotely adequately, then we need to be doing it in the workplaces as well. So we're currently sort of figuring out, but our goals as an organization are to increase the legitimacy, and the perceived legitimacy and validity of peer support amongst workplaces and the healthcare system and to support the peer support workers and peer support organizations that are on the ground doing this work. Just to backtrack a little bit and have my say in the conversation about the over professionalization, this is something that we're astutely aware of as we go through this next phase. And really, as you said James, just trying to find the balance between standardizing and offering structure, and as I said, increasing legitimacy of peer support without losing that authentic humanness that makes peer support what it is. So I think that we're really looking to make sure that we can offer services like certification, accreditation, standards, creating good research tools, and evaluation tools to validate what it is, to validate the effectiveness of peer support. But we're not looking to be overly prescriptive. So if you come to us and say, "Hey, I think I wanna do a peer support programme," we're not gonna say, "Okay, so you say this, you do this. This is step one. This is step two. This is step three," because you know your environment better than we do and you know your community's needs better than we do as a national organization. So we're really there just to help provide whatever structure you need in order to get started, to get these things off the ground, and to do it quote unquote "right," because we do have some best practises in the peer support world around what works and what doesn't work. So we can help offer some of those learnings and that knowledge, and then really just empower people that are looking to do this, to be able to do it themselves, and with our backing and with our support, of course, but we're really conscious of not wanting to over professionalize, over bureaucratize peer support endeavours, because we just know that that's not gonna be helpful for the peer support world. Yeah, interesting times. But yeah, we're just really hoping to make sure that we provide services that help to make sure that peer support is seen as a legitimate part of our healthcare system, and make sure that the peer support workers and peer support organizations can do the work that they need to do. So stay tuned for what's coming from PSC.
Well, thank you very much panel. I think we're gonna move into the next phase of our programme. If you'd like to add something further to what we've already said. What we're gonna do now is go to the chat box. And again, participants, if you have a question, go to the right top corner, enter your question and email, and we're gonna get through as many of these as possible. And at that point, panel, if you have something to add, you can certainly do that. The first question that's come in is, I'm just gonna read these. "What about folks who don't reach out at all? How do you approach them, and how do you make them aware that they can reach out? That resources and support are available, but they don't do it? What can we do to help our dear colleagues?" And I think I'll ask Allison to continue on, if you don't mind, to start the response to that question.
Yeah, I'm sure everybody's gonna have something to say on this one, cause we've all sort of had this experience, but the first thing they of comes to mind for me, is that I was that person. I was that person who was really struggling, and people told me, "Oh, go to the doctor, go do this, go do that, and these resources are available. You can get help," and I wasn't receptive to it. And I think the thing that was most helpful for me in that moment, and I think the thing that I would encourage, is to have empathy for that person that's not ready to accept those resources or not ready to take that step. Have empathy for that. Try your very best to stay non-judgmental about that, because it's very easy to say, "Oh, this person's just whining and whining and whining and they're not doing anything about it and it's so annoying, and they're being really lazy about this." It's really easy to flip into that judgement space, and anything you can do to try to stay out of that I think is gonna be most helpful for that person that's just maybe not in a place of readiness to access those resources or those supports. And then, the other thing I would say is keep the door open, right? So just because I say, "No, I don't want that. No, I don't want that. No, I don't want that," 17 times, I think one of the most useful things that I've ever heard as a person with lived experience is, "Okay! I'm around when you want to talk about it," or, "What would be useful for you, if it's not these resources?" And just having that sort of sense of control put back into my hands to say, "These resources aren't it for me right now, but can we go for a walk? Can you listen to me vent for 20 minutes?" Because sometimes it's just planting the seed and making sure that that door is still open, because at some point I probably will get to that point of readiness, of accepting those resources, and if I think, "Oh, they're never gonna help me out because I've said no so many times," that's a shut door that that's not gonna result in support down the line. So I think just empathizing as much as possible, trying to understand where that person's coming from, and maybe saying no to these supports or no to these resources, and then keeping the door open, saying, "Okay, I hear you. I see that that's where you're at right now. Let me know if that changes," or, "I'll circle back in two weeks and check in on where you're at on this," is really the most helpful thing you can do as a supporter or colleague or yeah.
Thanks Allison. So Jessica, in the same situation, besides empathy or an empathetic approach, what would you suggest?
Well, there's still a huge amount of stigma surrounding mental illness. The pandemic make has brought us a bit of a genesis of people understanding mental health challenges and self care and the importance of yoga and mindfulness and journaling and colouring and all those things that are really helpful for mental health, but for folks that are struggling with mental illness, there's still a huge amount of stigma, perhaps even more now than there was. And so, the people are going to be resistant to anyone sort of suggesting that there might be a mental health, or mental illness even, issue there and be resistant to it and it's only natural. And I know that I also, Allison, I hear you loud and clear. I was one of those people. I, from time to time, continue to be one of those people, because it is still so highly stigmatizing. And so what I would suggest is to not approach that person, cause it can be easier to approach that person as though they are someone who needs your help, who needs your advice, who needs your assistance, who needs you to give them resources. But what I would advise instead is a little bit of that piece of contact, be a real person with the person who's struggling. So don't think to yourself, "Wow, they're really struggling. They wouldn't wanna on any of my problems. I just won't tell them about the struggles that I'm having. We'll just focus on them." What would actually make them probably have a lot more self-efficacy and a lot more confidence and would build their trusting you to be able to share with you, is if you are also open and vulnerable and share with them. The biggest mistake that people make with me as a person that lives with chronic mental illness is to think of me as someone who can't take on their problems. And I feel the most useful and the most connected to my friends, family and colleagues, when they are able to share with me their struggles. And that elicits a reciprocity of me being able to share some of my struggles. Now, maybe I don't necessarily go right into, "Oh, I have a diagnosed mental illness and you should hear what I'm doing," but I'm able to say, "You know what? I'm having trouble with my kids doing online schooling and it's throwing my house into complete disarray. Wow. We can share that." And gradually, as our relationship builds, I may be able to get into, "You know, I feel like I some help with X," or, "I feel like I need resources to X. Do you know where I can find them?" But it takes time to build that relationship, especially when there's fear of stigma and there's fear of reprisal. And last thing I just wanted to say on this is I hear this question a lot from managers and supervisors. "If I have an employee that is struggling and they won't seek help, what can I do?" Again, you can be a vulnerable person yourself with them because you can, as they say, lead a horse to water, you can't make them drink. You can give all the resources in the world to an employee or to a peer, but you can't make them take them. And it is, at the end of the day, their own sense of self and self-determination that's going to dictate whether or not they seek help. So feeding them the fire hose of resources isn't always helpful to that person. And so I would harken back to what Allison was saying about, put it into their hands. Okay. These resources are not helpful. I hear a lot of people say, "Oh, my EAP is not helpful, going to a counsellor's not helpful." Okay. That's fine. But what would be helpful for you? Do you wanna just vent? Do you want a coffee chat? Do you wanna schedule in a regular coffee chat? What would be helpful for you, and putting it back into their court. I totally agree Allison, that is an excellent piece of advice.
So the next question is a nice segue into this. It says, "How do you recommend communicating a mental health issue to a supervisor if he or she themselves has never experienced it?" So you can be empathetic to a point, but how do you build that understanding? And maybe Jessica, you can continue cause you started that line of answer in the previous question.
Yeah, absolutely. One thing I would note is that it doesn't take having experienced the same mental illness or the same symptoms of mental health challenges for a person to be able to understand, because a lot of mental health challenges, and even symptoms of mental illness, they run along that spectrum of things that are common in human experience. So we all experience sadness. We do not all experience depression. Depression is a whole host of symptoms. One of which may or may not be sadness in any given person, but we have some experience of what it feels like to have loss, to have grief, to have sadness, to maybe not feel like getting up and doing anything for a few days at a time. And while that is not mental illness, that gives a person a basis for having empathy with someone who is struggling with something that is more than just the regular human experience of emotions. So you don't have to find someone who can completely share your point of view and completely share your experience in order to be able to find empathy. But I think one of the big things here is when there is a power differential. So when there is someone that does have some authority over a person. So in terms of myself, I really wanna be sure that when I'm communicating with my superiors, with my supervisor, my manager, and even my directors and above, that I want some evidence that they're going to be empathetic, because we know that they know to put on the face and be like, "Oh yes, I'm very empathetic," but we want some kind of proof that they're going to be and I think that might be where this question, the sense that this question is coming from. But remember, well, you know, one in five of us, or one in four depending on the numbers you take, will struggle with a mental illness at any given time. There's estimates that up to half of us will struggle at some point in our lives. And 100% of us love people with mental illness. So if it's one in five that struggle with mental illness, look at your Facebook friends, look at your Instagram followers, your Twitter feed. If you have more than four friends, you have somebody that you know, that you care for, that struggles with mental illness. And so that's also an experience where empathy can come into it. So maybe your boss doesn't have lived experience of mental illness, but their child does, or their best friend does. You're gonna get empathy that way as well. So don't discount the folks that don't have direct lived experience. There can also be a whole host of empathetic situations that arise in their life. And chances are, there are.
Excellent response. This question is actually one I've heard before as well. "I find that when accommodations are out of the ordinary, they're very difficult to obtain. For example, before the pandemic, my accommodation allowed me to telecommute. My employer told me it was not a possibility. My union told me that telework was not addressed in the collective agreement, so nothing could be done to help with my accommodation. What processes are in place to support managers and our unions in supporting people with mental health challenges?"
Et peut-être Catherine, vous pouvez répondre à ça, parce que c'est demandé ou posé en français.
[Catherine speaks, her panel briefly filling the screen.]
Because I'm a manager. So, mmm. I saw that question come up in the chat and I've just been kind of scratching my head, James. So I think my experience is that in most organizations, when there are challenging, if you're facing a challenging conversation, a difficult conversation, particularly between unions, managers and employees, most organizations in the public service have supports, an Ombuds office, values and ethics, conflict resolution office. My experience is that it's oftentimes very helpful to reach out to that kind of an organization for some support. It could be coaching, prior to having a difficult conversation. It could be inviting someone to be part of the conversation to facilitate the dialogue. So I think that I've certainly heard of those challenges from employees as well, with regard to perceptions that their accommodations, that someone's not listening to what their needs are, that greater clarification of what those needs are may need to be articulated and understood. And that really inviting individuals from organizations, as I mentioned, the Ombuds office, value and ethics, conflict resolution, to help facilitate the conversation would probably be a good idea. That is my initial thought on that.
[Jessica speaks in French.]
C'est drôle aussi que le problème a été avec le télétravail, parce que maintenant dans la pandémie c'était de rigueur le télétravail. Accommodations pour avoir le travail en personne c'est le problème. Je pense aussi que c'est important d'être avocat pour lui-même pour avoir une idée de ce que sont les accommodations qui puissent être abordées pour faire quelque chose pour les personnes et d'avoir… je ne sais pas, d'avoir l'empathie aussi pour les gestionnaires, parce qu'ils sont, ils ne sont pas experts dans la santé mentale. Et c'est difficile d'avoir la confiance pour donner des informations, des renseignements pour avoir… je ne sais pas, une balance entre ce qui est bon pour les personnes, ce qui est bon pour l'organisation.
And I think too, I'm just gonna switch into English at this moment. I think too, it's important for managers to be a really good advocate for their employees as well. So it's easy sometimes, and this is from the perspective of having been a manager, of also having worked with unions, it's easy sometimes to go to labour relations, get your advice, and then hide behind it. But I would strongly advocate for managers who are working with employees who have accommodations, needs that are difficult to be able to reach, to be real big advocates for their employees, and working with all of the players. It's important to have the unions at the table, to have the labour relations at the table, for the manager to have support in what they're trying to do to support their employee, but everyone needs to remember that the employee is really the one at the centre of all of this, that really just wants to do their job and do their job well and be able to be supported. I remember when I needed accommodations on account on my mental health, my manager didn't even know what was possible. Now, this was almost 10 years ago and we've come a long way in 10 years, but I had to really educate myself as to what I needed, what was possible, and what was gonna enable me to do my job the best that I could. And I was really bolstered by having a manager that did go to bat for me and that didn't just take the, "Oh, nope, and I'm gonna stand behind it," and really tried to work with me to find a solution that would work for me because really I'm the one trying just to do my job.
Thanks, Jessica. The next question is, "How do we recognize someone who could be a peer for such peer support in an organization?" Allison? I think you had an interest in that one.
Yeah. I'd like to, again, I know that the whole panel will be able to speak to it, but I think that, I like to highlight that it's not like the only requirement for a peer supporter is lived experience. As Jessica mentioned, mental health and mental health challenges, mental illness is so prevalent, and there's so many individuals that have lived experience, but not every single person on the planet has the communication skills or has the capacity to engage in this type of supportive role. So I think, when I'm looking, when I've sat on hiring panels or recruited for peer support positions, some of the things I'm looking for are those interpersonal skills, so that natural ability to be present and to connect with a fellow human being, which not every human being has sadly. So I think that it's some of those soft skills around just being able to connect, being able to approach folks with mental health challenges with that non-judgmental stance. It's a lot, I think, easier said than done sometimes. As a person with mental health experience myself, I sometimes do struggle to find that non-judgemental space myself. So I think that I really look for that, somebody's capacity to remain non-judgmental even in the face of that colleague that quote unquote, "Just comes in and whines every single day," right? You have to have the capacity to remain non-judgmental, quote unquote, "Even in the face of that experience." And then also I think in peer support, there's sometimes a perception that you can maybe take a eight week peer support training programme and then be good to go for the rest of your life, and I am a big advocate in continued learning and continued education. And so that ability and willingness to continuously learn in this role of a peer supporter, and not just learn from the formal trainings or from your manager or from the peer support coordinator or the manager of the peer programme, but also to learn from the people you're supporting. Every time you support somebody who's struggling with a mental health challenge, you have the opportunity to learn from them, what they're doing to get by every day, what coping strategies have they introduced that has been working for them, and could you learn from that? Or if they say to you, "Hey, this conversation's not helpful for me right now." Take that as feedback and a learning opportunity and work to learn how you could do better as a supporter. So those are some of the qualities. Capacity and openness to learning, good interpersonal communications, willingness to be a human and willingness to disclose your own experiences, and sorry, lastly, also having a really good self care plan for yourself, because as I've said, this work is really, really, really hard. And so if you do not have a plan to take care of yourself before you step into this supportive role, it's a recipe for disaster in my mind. So really being able to have a strong sense of your own wellness and your own wellbeing and what you need to do to keep yourself well, be able to be that support for other people.
Anybody else wanna answer that one?
Yeah. I don't know if answering the question, but just building on what Allison and Jessica were saying. I think it is, the skills to be a peer supporter is so important. Not everybody can do this. Empathy, being non-judgmental, a good listener, all of those soft skills I think that Jessica and Allison were referring to are so important. And as well, that I really liked when Allison said it's not enough just to participate in an eight week training programme. And so one of the things I think that we've done is we do hold those monthly community of practise meetings for our peer supporters. And it's just not peer supporters of Health Canada. We've actually had community of practise meetings with peer supporters in other government of Canada departments that have implemented programmes so that they can learn from each other and talk about challenging situations, not just from peers learning from peer supporters and vice versa, but a broader community. So I do think that that's a really important thing as well, James, that I wanted to mention in relation to that.
Kind of a segue to the next question, and this is, "What can I do to become a peer supporter? And do you think that someone can be a peer supporter even though they themselves are going through a challenging time?" And I think Armi, you would like to address that.
Yeah, it's such a great question. I think we've kind of alluded to some of the pieces that come into play earlier in this discussion. In terms of the first question, "What can I do to become a peer supporter?" As Allison, Jessica and Catherine are mentioning, the first piece is there's a lot of soft skills that come with that, like interpersonal. So you have to kind of do some self reflection. Do I have those skills? Do I enjoy interpersonal communication? Do I enjoy listening and communicating with my colleagues, with my peers? So it's a big self-reflection piece. The other is a passion piece. And this will kind of segue into the question that comes with this, but this is a responsibility you're taking on, and that can be quite impactful on you as well. And whenever I support someone, often I take pieces of that home, right? And there's often that concept of that. So you have to be prepared to kind of help carry that baggage. So you also need to reflect on are you passionate? Are you willing to take on that responsibility? Because on the flip side, I think one thing we maybe haven't mentioned is, these types of peer board sessions are also inherently helpful for the peer supporter. It helps you grow as an individual. It helps you better understand yourself. I often found when I was supporting peers that I would be learning so much more about myself and in the setting, it's just like an incredible experience, right? Knowing yourself, reflecting on yourself, but then having the passion to kind of pursue this pathway and everything it comes with, I think is very important in becoming a peer supporter. And then obviously the training, the lifelong learning is very important as it's already been mentioned. Do I think someone can be a peer supporter even though they're themselves are going through challenging time? What a great question. It kind of goes back to that concept of caring for the caregiver. In order to be able to support others, you have to be able to care for yourself, and you have to be able to know that you're resilient and able to cope with what might be going on in your own life. So I think, classic example, roll your eyes, but it's that aeroplane example where, you know, you always put the mask on yourself first, and then you put the mask on those around you and help them out. It's just crucial, right? If you wanna be a good peer supporter, if you wanna be there for your colleagues, you have to be able to support yourself, and to understand yourself and be able to grow from that. And as was mentioned, just because you're going through a tough time and you've been able to cope with that and be resilient in that context, that in itself is actually a very helpful tool and shared experiences when you speak to your colleagues and peers. Going through challenging time is very helpful in helping you understand yourself and those around you, but at the same time, you have to be able to be resilient and put that mask on yourself first, before you can help others.
This has been a great discussion and we have a couple of minutes left. And one question I'd like to actually be the last question, because it's so great and it's a perfect wrap up question. If we went in order again and gave you say 30 seconds, how would you answer this question? "Is there one thing that you would recommend to leaders, to do this year, to support mental health in the virtual environment?" What a perfect question. So maybe we'll start with Allison.
Sure. I think there's a lot, but if I'm gonna get 30 seconds and pick one thing, I think as a manager, again, I just always approach this from my own experience. I think as a manager I try to ask my staff, "What do you need?" And I think that that question needs to get asked more frequently now than it has ever needed to be asked before. And I think that it's an important way of phrasing it, without discounting my own responsibility as a manager to have a pulse on what I can do to support, of course, but I think empowering people to say, "This is what would be most helpful for me right now," is really a good practise as a manager because it gives that person, they know better than I do ultimately what they need from me as a manager or what they need in terms of support during the pandemic. I don't know if they have kids or if they have siblings that they're, I don't know all every detail of everybody's situation, and so just giving them permission to tell me what I can do to support, I think it's essential. Yeah. That's what I got for now.
Jessica, thank you.
If I was to pick one very simple and concrete action, it would be to build in those, even if it's just 15 minutes after at the end of meetings, schedule your meeting not from 11 to 12, but from 11 to 11:45, and encourage and enable your staff to have those more intimate, more one-on-one coffee moments with one another. As I say, we so often nowadays are going from teams to teams to teams with barely a moment to use the washroom or grab a coffee for ourselves, barely a moment to breathe, and so if you can, as a leader, demonstrate that you are prioritizing those interpersonal relationships with people in the office, by really doing concrete actions like giving people 15 minutes back of their day and encouraging them to use it to connect with one another, that is one very simple concrete thing that leaders can be doing.
Thank you. Armi.
Very simple one, it's one I use in a lot of my different roles and different organizations. It's just roses and thorns. So in conjunction with the idea that Allison and Jessica mentioned is, to facilitate conversation outside of work and outside of the day to day is, what is something you're really excited about or happy about today, and what is something you're not so much looking forward to or not as happy about. A rose and a thorn. And depending on the size of your team, that can be something you can do and it really facilitates just, and it indicates that you can have conversations that aren't necessarily only about work.
Thank you Armi. Last word to Catherine.
Thank you. And James and panellists. I would just like to reiterate the importance of not just taking but creating time to have conversations about things that are not just work related, and ensuring that gets built into our daily interactions with our colleagues and our employees. And I just, when I was thinking about that, the words "be real, be authentic, be visible," come to mind as well, because I think it's that visibility, right? That opportunity to actually engage with employees, to share, to be open and authentic about our own journeys, our own challenges that we're facing, just makes it so much easier to build the kind of relationships I think during this pandemic that are so important. And James, I have to ask you one question. Do I have a moment just for something that's not on the question slate?
20 Seconds! Well, I feel like I wanna give a shout out to the peer supporters in my organization and I'm not gonna name these people, but I have to tell you, it's a roster, it's a group of people who have demonstrated such determination and courage to step for forward and volunteer to be peer supporters in our organization. And you know, I think that's what Bell Let's Talk is all about, right? It's those people who say, "Yeah, I wanna do this. I wanna share my own journey, my lived and living experience with others, to help support them on their journey to recovery." And I have to say, there's this group of people in our organization who are absolutely amazing. And I just wanna give a shout out to all of them today. Hopefully some of them are listening and say a big thank you. Thank you, James.
Thank you Catherine, and panel. So I'm gonna come up in a few seconds and I'm gonna wrap up, but first I wanna thank the panel and you participants for all of your great questions. And we didn't get to all of them, but we kind of knew that when we started. Right now though, I'd like to introduce Christiane Fox who's the Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services Canada. Christiane was employed into a position of Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services back in September of 2020. She's also the very important Deputy Minister Champion of the Federal Youth Network. Christiane's going to be providing some closing remarks and then I'll come back and wrap up.
Avant sa nomination, Mme Fox a occupé le poste de sous-ministre des Affaires Intergouvernementales depuis 2019. Elle a auparavant travaillé comme sous ministres des Affaires Intergouvernementales et de la Jeunesse, de juin 2017 à novembre 2019.
She's occupied many posts at PCO, and she's also a path moderator of this event. And I'd like to welcome Christiane at this point.
[Christine Fox briefly joins the chat, filling the screen.]
Hi, I'm Christiane Fox, and I'm the Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services Canada and the Deputy Minister Champion for the Federal Youth Network. It's been my pleasure to be involved with this event over the last few years. And it's been great to see the continued engagement of public service on mental health. We know that the last two years have been quite challenging for all of us, in balancing all of the things we had to do before, but now doing so in the context of a global pandemic. This is not a normal time, and after two years, it feels much harder.
C'est pourquoi la discussion aujourd'hui, le soutien par les pairs, est si importante. Nous avons tous un rôle à jouer en nous aidant les uns et les autres à travers cette période difficile. Qu'il s'agisse de soutenir votre famille, vos amis ou vos collègues. C'est une période de stress et d'incertitudes, mais nous pouvons tous contribuer à atténuer ce stress en restant connectés et en s'appuyant mutuellement.
We can all play an important role in supporting one another through the various peer supports available, as well as the employee assistance programmes available in your departments and agencies. These can be formal or informal ways to seek out support. Don't wait until you're in a crisis point to seek out the support you need. Make sure that you're thinking each and every day about your own mental health and the mental health of those around you. We will make it through this pandemic and will do that by being there for each other and supporting one another.
N'attendez pas d'être en situation de crise pour chercher le soutien dont vous avez besoin. Pensez à chaque jour à votre propre santé mentale et à celle des personnes qui vous entoure. Nous traverserons cette pandémie et nous le ferons en étant là pour les uns et les autres.
I'd like to thank our panellists and moderator for sharing their experiences with us. I'd also like to thank the organizing team from the Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace, the Canada School of Public Service, and of course, the Federal Youth Network. Finally, I'd like to thank each of you for taking this time to be present, to learn and engage with our panellists, and to prioritize your mental health, our mental health. Thank you everyone for joining us today for the government of Canada, Bell Let's Talk Day 2022.
Merci à tous de vous joindre à nous aujourd'hui pour la journée Bell Cause, pour la cause du gouvernement du Canada 2022.
[James reappears, filling the screen.]
Well, thank you Christiane. This has been an amazing session and I first want to thank our panellists, Allison, Jessica, Armi, and Catherine. I learned a lot. You're all very smart and committed people. You were candid, real, vulnerable, and strong all at once. And I took away a couple of things. First of all, no one, nobody is immune. Mental health impacts everyone at some point, particularly professionals, and doesn't matter the function, the level where they work. It impacts the family as well. We all have our own stories of struggle and recovery, or we know of someone who's been impacted. It's also important to remember that we're not alone and all of these tools that you're gonna be hearing about, formally and informally, you can reach out and use when necessary. I wanna say also that Apex, where I work, for the executives attending today, we're hosting our own event tomorrow with Michael Landsberg. It's tomorrow afternoon. And Michael, of course, people will remember, he's the ambassador for Let's Talk with Bell. And he's the founder of his own non-profit organization, #SickNotWeak. Registration's still open. It'd be a great conversation with one of Canada's leading voices in mental advocacy and health advocacy, so you can still register.
Nous espérons que vous avez apprécié cet évènement aujourd'hui. Vos commentaires sont très importants pour nous et je vous encourage donc à remplir l'évaluation électronique que vous recevrez dans les prochains jours.
In that same email, this is very important. You're gonna be receiving a list of credible sources of information for follow up, and we all encourage you to pay attention to that list and use those resources accordingly. The Canada School, which we have to thank also for the platform today in putting this together, also has more events to offer. I encourage you to visit the Canada School website to keep up to date and register for all future learning opportunities.
Ceci mesdames et messieurs, conclu l'évènement d'aujourd'hui.
Merci beaucoup à tous ceux et celle qui se sont joints à nous aujourd'hui, cet après-midi. Bonne journée.
Stay safe and bye bye.
[A chyron briefly appears in the bottom-left that reads “canada.ca”. The participants all wave to their respective cameras, while on screen at the same time. The meeting fades out, replaced by the Webcast Webdiffusion logo. The Canada logo appears.]