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Research brings workplace mental health crisis into sharp focus

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The mental health of working Canadians is a top casualty of COVID-19, a growing body of research confirms, heightening the need for greater workplace supports and services.

In 2020, Canada’s life and health insurers paid $420 million in psychology-related claims to support mental health through the pandemic — up 24% from 2019, reported the Canadian Life Health and Insurance Association (CLHIA) in its annual publication, Canadian Life & Health Insurance Facts.

Mental illness most common

The 2021 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey found that mental illness was the most common chronic disease among plan members, with 21% having been diagnosed. Rates were even higher for females (26%) and those 18-34 (26%).

The vast majority of plan sponsors (64%) cited employee mental health issues as the area where COVID-19 will have the biggest impact on benefit costs over the next five years. Second on the list was mental health issues among employee dependents (44%), followed by serious issues or chronic conditions that may have worsened due to delays in diagnosis or treatment as the pandemic persisted.

Training, counselling

Despite mounting evidence of the decline in employees’ mental health, 48% of employers offered training to managers and staff in 2020, compared to 51% in both 2019 and 2018. On a positive note, 19% of employers increased their coverage maximum for mental health counselling in 2020.

As the manager and insurer of health benefits for 1 in 12 Canadians, Medavie Blue Cross has always made the mental wellbeing of employees a top priority. We have a comprehensive offering of mental health supports and services to help give employees who are struggling with issues like anxiety and depression, timely access to expert care, from the privacy and security of their homes.

We also help employers build psychologically safe and healthy workplaces through our Insights blogs. The following are just a few recent posts that provide employers with knowledgeable advice from our in-house subject matter experts on mental health and wellness in the workplace.

CLHIA’s full publication, based on industry and publicly available data, is available at

Key findings from the Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey can be found here. The complete report will be released in October.