As a mental health first aider at CGI, Operations Coordinator Fiona Finn is acutely aware of how mental health issues impact both individual employees and the wider business – which is true in any organisation, not just ours.

At CGI we work hard to take care of our employees, which we call ‘members’ emotional needs because we want to cultivate an environment that is genuinely supportive.

Across many workplaces, though, there’s unfortunately still quite a lot of stigma surrounding mental health. Removing that stigma and opening up discussions around mental health has been a priority for us and as a result, we’ve had a hugely positive response to our mental health initiatives.

We recently sat down with Fiona to learn more about the initiatives she’s involved in and how they’re helping our employees.

Tell us a bit about why mental health in the workplace is so important to you.

I think for many people, one of the few places they can access mental health support is at work. I myself have a lot of friends and family members who’ve had chronic or acute mental health issues and I know they often feel like they can’t speak to anyone about it, apart from their primary health networks such as their GP.

So as an employer who cares about its staff, it is critical to optimise the mental health in our workplace. At CGI we prioritise supporting employee mental health, especially because we understand that many of our employees, who we call members, may not have this sort of support outside the workplace.

What is CGI’s general approach in this area?

Our mental health services and initiatives are run through our health and wellbeing program, Oxygen. Members are made fully aware of the program right from induction. We also have regular and ongoing initiatives that support mental health.

For us, it comes down to building awareness through effective initiatives, and providing ready access to trained mental health first aiders. It’s about making sure the support we provide is always front of mind, as you never know when you may need it.

Creating a culture of support and wellbeing is led from the front. Having leaders who are approachable and open to mental health discussions makes team members feel more comfortable to admit when they’re struggling or ask for help when they may need it.

Last year, we rolled out training to all of our people leaders and it speaks for itself that we had 100% attendance. The workshop gave leaders the skills to spot the signs that someone might need help, how to approach the conversation and open a dialogue, then refer to the necessary supports.

Can you share some more detail on the initiatives you mentioned?

Through our health and wellbeing program, we ensure regular communication with our members about a number of awareness initiatives and programs. These include:

  • Promoting our mental health first aider (MHFA) network and our custom-built MHFA app, which allows real-time access to our mental health first aiders.
  • Endorsing our Member Assistance Program (MAP) – a free, confidential service, available to our employees (members) and their families. The service includes complimentary counselling services along with life services advice.
  • Access to the Mental Health Navigator, a specialised service ran through our Best Doctors program. The program provides expert mental health guidance on treatment options for the best path forward.
  • An annual mental health awareness month, which encourages conversations around the topic of mental health and reducing the stigma.
  • Regular mental health webinars on topics such as mental health awareness, building resilience and managing stress.
  • Promotion of World Mental Health Day and activities to support and reinforce the annual theme.
  • Promoting R U OK? Day and ensuring our members are comfortable in spotting the signs and starting conversations about mental health with their peers, friends and family.
  • Ongoing mental health training to our leaders, including spotting signs of burn out, starting the conversation and where to go for support.
  • Guided mindfulness sessions where members can learn the benefits and how to practice mindfulness. These activities run alongside a comprehensive health and wellbeing program covering other topics such as exercise and nutrition which support good mental health.

How have you seen these initiatives benefit CGI members?

We’ve had a really positive response to all of these initiatives and it’s encouraging to see so much action being taken by the company on this matter. It’s been very welcomed across the organisation. All our members know that even if mental health support is difficult for them to access in their external lives, they will always find it with us in their workplace.

Mental health and mental illness are complex and varied. I think we’re only now truly understanding the importance of managing it and addressing it, and it’s great to see it being brought to the fore.

We’ve got a lot more planned for the future of this journey at CGI, which I am pleased to be a part of!

To find out more about CGI’s health and wellbeing program, visit our Member benefits page.