Celebrating Mental Health Week

Published on : 5/5/21
  • My reflection on the past year as a Mental Health Champion at Sodexo Canada

    Author: Gareth Ellis, Vice President of Service Operations, Sodexo Canada

    Pre-pandemic, the leadership at Sodexo Canada knew that Mental Health was an important topic to spotlight and focus their support, but the increased desire for support and training tools in over the past 12 months has been unprecedented.

    Since committing to The Working Mind (TWM) program, an evidence-based course designed to help organisations create greater awareness about mental health problems and illnesses, 91 Sodexo Canada managers have completed the program. By the end of August 2021, 11 virtual training sessions will be held, training up to 151 Sodexo Canada employees total.

    During Mental Health Week here in Canada (May 3-9), I thought it was important that I reflect on the results of this program, why training programs like this are important, and what our next steps need to be, for Sodexo Canada as a company, but also for society as a whole.


    Insert inspirational quote here

    This is the point in the article where I feel like I should add an inspirational quote about how when one embarks on a long journey, the most important thing is to take the first step. But we all know that, right? Each and every person in our organisation (and in society) has the opportunity to inspire positive change. You just have to start, and that’s where Valerie comes in.

    Valérie Cloutier, Mental Health Champion and Certified Psychological Health & Safety Advisor, came to our leadership team with the goal to close the gap between the prevalence of mental illness and the reluctance to seek help, with the aim to eliminate stigma from the workplace. Certainly, no easy feat. One of our first steps in this journey to Stamp Out Stigma was to roll out The Working Mind training to managers in the healthcare and energy & resources industries, which we identified as key roles that could influence the whole company, as well as segments with people who were heavily impacted by the pandemic.


    “The cohorts filled up immediately. The same day we made them available. People who couldn’t register because the sessions were full were sending us messages to add more training sessions. It was a great feeling to see an appetite for mental health training from Sodexo team members across the country.” – Valerie Cloutier



    The demand was there, and we were confident in the course, which was backed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, but how would the training be received? And would we see change? The answers to these questions are easy: very well, and yes!

    With Stamping Out Stigma being the underlying goal, I was pleased to see colleagues openly sharing feedback from their training experience. Topics related to health and wellbeing in general can be very personal and hard to talk about in a work environment, but the training seemed to have a positive impact and resulted in colleagues opening up about their experiences.

    With the permission of my colleagues, I thought I’d share a few of these statements:


    "I realized that I had a personal experience with PTSD. I didn't realize it was PTSD until a fellow participant shared a story about PTSD. Fortunately, I had access to resources at the time that helped me before the situation got worse. The Working Mind provided excellent tools to help me recognize and feel comfortable speaking about mental health. Well done." - Vincent Meehan, Vice-President, IS&T


    “A time relevant, valuable, informative and engaging program! So many powerful takeaways and learnings. I love when learning and development allows for self-reflection. Thanks for allowing this opportunity to grow, enhance my skill set and gain confidence in speaking about mental health both professionally and personally.” – Amy Frank, General Manager, Healthcare


    Well, what’s next?

    Continuing with The Working Mind program and continuing to provide other mental health support and training tools to all Sodexo Canada employees.

    Talking. Talking about mental health. Writing articles and posts like this. Speaking to your colleagues about mental health. Sharing stories. Asking “how are you really feeling”?

    Celebrating Mental Health Week and using opportunities like this to spread the word.

    And remembering that mental health is not static, we all have green days, red days and orange days – that’s normal.


    Learn more about Sodexo Canada’s Mental Health Crusade. 

    This article was published for the first time on the personal LinkedIn account of Gareth Ellis, Vice President of Service Operations, Sodexo Canada