The past decade has seen a mental health epidemic sweep the federal public service. Today, nearly one in two health claims is related to mental health issues.

A breakthrough in addressing this long-ignored crisis took place in March 2015, when our bargaining agent, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and the Treasury Board agreed to establish the Mental Health Joint Task Force.

The Agriculture Union has a particularly close involvement with the Joint Task Force. Bob Kingston, our National President, is one of the representatives from the union side.

The Joint Task Force’s first report was handed down last December. It focused on measures to improve mental health in alignment with the benchmark National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

Building on the recommendations of the first report, the Joint Task Force’s second report was released May 31. It provides specific direction to federal public service departments and agencies on the development and communication of mechanisms to identify and address mental health issues in the workplace.

Specifically, the second report lays out recommendations on renewed leadership, engagement and education on the issue of mental health. It also considers training and workplace practices, communication and promotion, and accountability.

Robyn Benson, PSAC National President, greeted the release of the Joint Task Force’s latest report as evidence of “our shared commitment to the important issue of mental health in the workplace.” Of note, she pointed out that “the next steps will be crucial as we seek to implement concrete strategies to promote better workplace practices when dealing with mental health issues.”