Hydro One is Ontario’s largest electricity transmission and distribution provider, with approximately 1.4 million customers and approximately 8,700 skilled and dedicated employees.
Supporting the well-being and mental health of their employees is a priority to Hydro One. This includes offering Mental Health First Aid training. Since 2015, the company has supported the training of over 2,500 Mental Health First Aiders.
Started MHFA Training: 2015
Staff Trained So Far: 2,500
Why Hydro One Trains its Staff in MHFA
Hydro One wanted to be proactive in equipping team members with the tools and knowledge to have conversations related to mental health and mental illness. The company knew this would be a valuable tool given that mental health problems and/or illnesses accounted for a significant portion of disability cases.
Hydro One knew that bringing more mental health literacy to the company was a key component of their efforts to better support their employees. This voluntary mental health training would help employees manage their mental health in the workplace and enable them to make the best decisions for their health and mental well-being.
“The health and safety of our employees is always our first priority. We wanted to ensure that the training was evidence-based, offered by qualified facilitators, and accessible to all employees across the province. We found all of this in the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course,” said Julia Tahardi, Disability Management Consultant at Hydro One.
MHFA was designed to provide support to a person who may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being or who is in a mental health crisis. The course teaches individuals how to recognize signs of declining mental well-being and crisis, how to offer and provide help, and how to guide a person toward appropriate treatments and support.
“MHFA training at Hydro One is voluntary. Our logic is that most employees who would volunteer to take the course are those who are interested and passionate about it,” said Tahardi. “They’re the ones that you would probably look to for support and who would be the most engaged.”
In 2015, Hydro One had a contract with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to train 500 employees per year. However, within the first year, they exceeded that target and now stand – as of January 2021 – at a total of 2,500 employees trained.
“Employees that have taken the training really enjoyed it and found it valuable, with some citing it as one of the best courses they’ve ever participated in,” Tahardi said. “Employees often let us know how much they appreciate that we offer this type of training.”
It didn’t take long for the word to spread. After the first groups completed their training, employees expressed that they felt more confident talking about mental health and reaching out to other employees. The training also helps people to connect with certified therapists and crisis counselors in the event of an incident or crisis in the workplace.
“It’s very enlightening, especially if someone doesn’t have any background on different mental health issues,” Tahardi explained. “MHFA teaches you the signs and symptoms to look out for, tangible actions that you can take to help someone who is experiencing a mental health problem, and also to identify changes in your own mental health.”
What the Future Holds
Since the implementation of MHFA, Hydro One has seen an impressive demand for training and have increased their investment in benefits that support mental health.
“[For the future], I’d like to continue to be more aligned with the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. We have a lot of good pieces and elements in place already, so having a management system that documents and manages all the different interrelated parts is a goal of mine,” Tahardi said.
She stated that while Hydro One continues to look into other resources for their employees and are looking at employee mental health and well-being in a more holistic approach, they continue to offer MHFA and are now beginning to roll out The Working Mind (TWM) training.
TWM is a program offered by MHCC that focuses on a number of important areas related to mental health: what an individual can do to reduce stigma; encouraging individuals to consider the state of their own mental well-being by using the Mental Health Continuum; how to increase one’s resilience; and how to have conversations around accommodations/return to work and other factors in a workplace setting. It is a complimentary program to MHFA. From September to December 2020, Hydro One trained approximately 170 employees in the virtual version of TWM.
“We definitely want to continue offering this [MHFA] course and we’re also looking at having managers trained in the TWM manager version,” Tahardi said.
She explained that Hydro One has already scheduled many sessions throughout 2021 and expects spots to fill up quickly. She expressed that she was really happy with the results and was surprised at the number of employees who signed up for the voluntary mental health training.
“I think with more employees being trained in MHFA and TWM, it helps open up and normalize conversations around mental health and helps everyone to be more comfortable talking about how they’re feeling and how they’re really doing.”