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Coping Book

Mental health crisis alleviated through coping skills

Dr. Bill Howatt explores how development of coping skills can mitigate mental health issues in his new book, The Coping Crisis: Discover why coping skills are required for a healthy & fulfilling life

Toronto - As mental health issues become more prevalent in the workplace, most non-genetic conditions can be mitigated through the development of coping skills. In a new book called The Coping Crisis: Discover why coping skills are required for a healthy & fulfilling life, Dr. Bill Howatt, Chief Research and Development Officer for Workforce Productivity at Morneau Shepell, determines that when a coping crisis is left without resolution, it can lead to a mental health crisis.

The Coping Crisis: Discover why coping skills are required for a healthy & fulfilling life reframes the discussion around mental health. It tells the story of Sam, the overloaded and overstressed employee, whose coping crisis reaches a perilous peak. Dr. Howatt provides solutions for employees and employers on how to develop coping skills in order to live healthier, more productive lives.

Dr. Howatt explains in his book that a coping crisis occurs when a person's internal resources are not sufficient enough to support them in managing the demands being put on them by either life or themselves. The longer a person stays in a coping crisis, the higher their risk for developing a chronic disease, such as mental illness. In Canada, more than 80 per cent of employers rate mental health problems and illnesses as one of the top three drivers of short- and long-term disability claims[1].

"In my years of research it has become clear that mental health is a progression," said Dr. Howatt. "Notwithstanding genetic- and trauma-related conditions, mental illness is often the impact of stress and not being able to cope."

The recent Your Life at Work survey, conducted by Dr. Howatt and the Globe and Mail, revealed that employees who felt the most stressed, did not have strong coping skills and in many cases had a lack of engagement and productivity at work. Though 27 per cent of Canadian employees that responded to the survey said they put in less than 70 per cent of their best effort at work on a daily basis, 66 per cent of Canadian employers said they want to invest in programs that improve workplace health and engagement, which is up from 57 per cent in 2014.

"If we don't tackle the coping crisis now, we will face an increased risk for an expanded mental health crisis," said Dr. Howatt. "What many people do not realize is that coping skills can be learned. Employers that take the opportunity to facilitate training of coping skills can alter the path toward mental health issues for not only individuals, but also society as a whole."

Mental health issues account for 30 per cent of all disability costs but employers can offer assistance to employees to alleviate this issue. Morneau Shepell's recently launched Total Health Index – a suite of solutions for employers to measure health, engagement and productivity in the workplace – allows employers to assess coping skills, help employees to strengthen them and provides tracking techniques for organizational performance. With these tools and the insights offered through The Coping Crisis, employers are better positioned to improve productivity and engagement at work, reducing the costs associated with mental health issues.

Dr. Howatt has more than 25 years of experience in strategic human resources, mental health and addictions and leadership. He has published numerous books and articles, including Pathways to Coping, TalOp®: Taking the Guesswork Out of Management, the Howatt HR Elements Series, the Wiley Series on Addictions, to name a few; is the creator of the Quality of Work Life methodology and survey, which has been adapted for the Your Life at Work initiative; and has a Ph.D., Ed.D., post doctorate behavioural science. Dr. Howatt will build on Morneau Shepell's leadership position in workplace mental health, absence and disability management, and health consulting to provide new services that help organizations improve health, engagement and productivity.

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