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Case Study: City of Halifax and The Working Mind

Halifax Regional Municipality is the capital of Nova Scotia located in Eastern Canada. With a population of over 400,000 residents, the municipality aims to enhance the quality of life of residents by fostering the growth of healthy and vibrant communities, a strong and diverse economy and a sustainable environment.  To achieve this vision the municipality employs close to 5000 full and part-time employees across many departments. 

Over the last few years, the municipality has made a commitment to make health, safety and wellness a priority. 

The Training 

In early 2017, the municipality acted on their commitment by making the decision to deliver mental health awareness training with the goal of training all staff overtime.  With the leadership and support of Cathy Lerette, a Wellness Specialist with Human Resources, the municipality began offering The Working Mind training to employees in May 2017.  

To help everyone speak the same language around mental health in the workplace, the municipality’s approach has been to train managers and supervisors in each business unit prior to training employees. Since May 2017, a total of 234 employees have taken the 8-hour manager course and 122 employees have taken the 4-hour employee course.  Through post-training surveys, we concluded that 93% of those who completed the survey indicated that the topic of training was important for their role.  87% agreed that they learned new information about mental health, mental illness and resilience and 95% agreed they could use this information in other areas of their life. 

“We have faced some obstacles since the beginning of our journey in 2017, but are constantly looking at creative ways to promote and deliver the program,” said Cathy Lerette. “An example would be the 8-hour manager course.  Eight hours is a lot of time to dedicate to training.  To make this training more accessible, we worked with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to get approval to split the Manager Course into two 4-hour sessions which helped boost attendance.” 

Moving forward, the municipality remains committed to continuing to train all staff members.  

Participant Feedback

When asked what participants found most useful/helpful, they responded with:

 “How to deal with mental illness that is appropriate and expected in the workplace.” 

“In-depth discussions about how to handle a mental health crisis and how to support and accommodate people who are struggling with mental illness. It was important that other people from different departments in my organization were present. It helped to have a broader perspective.” 

“The ability to concentrate on the subject and be reminded of constructive approaches to mental health, both in working with employees and in my own personal life as well.” 

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