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Over the past two years, the mental health of Canadians has been on the decline. According to a report from Statistics Canada, fewer Canadians report having excellent or very good mental health than before the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, young people, women, LGBTQ2+ people and people of colour are more likely to report a decline in their mental health since 2019, and according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), by the time Canadians reach age 40, 1 in 2 have, or have had, a mental illness of some kind.
Even for those who do not live with a mental illness, experiencing fluctuations in mental health and wellness is common and completely normal. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared with tools to tackle mental health issues when they do happen. As a public servant, one of the tools available to you is the Employee Assistance Program.
The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a program which provides free short-term counselling for personal or work-related problems as well as crisis counselling for federal public servants and their immediate family members. Service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for those who need support. You can speak to a counsellor on the phone for immediate support or receive an appointment to meet with a counsellor for a longer session in person or via telephone, email or a video call. Service is available in French and English, as well as through TTY for Deaf and hard of hearing people.
Most federal departments make use of the Health Canada EAP service, though some departments provide the service for their employees internally or purchase it from a private provider. You can find the contact information for your department’s EAP provider here: EAP contact info by department (the link will open in a new tab).
The Health Canada EAP – used by more than 80 federal departments and agencies – also provides a live Chat service so that you or your immediate family members may contact the Crisis and Referral Centre through the online service.
The EAP service is not intended as an emergency line – if you are concerned about immediate harm to yourself or others, please call 9-1-1.
While the exact steps to receive an EAP counselling appointment differ by department, the process is similar across all providers. Each provider lists a toll-free phone number you can call, which will connect you to the 24-hour referral centre. There, you can speak to a counsellor who will assist you. The call centre is staffed by mental health professionals who are able to assist you with many concerns, such as family and relationship issues, work-life balance, work conflicts and frustration, anxiety and stress management or burnout.
If need be, counsellors can also help you set up an appointment for short-term, professional counselling. These appointments can include follow-ups if needed, as well as referrals to different community resources or specialized treatment professionals. If your provided counsellor is not a good fit, you are welcome to call the EAP line to ask for a different counsellor so that you may find someone with whom you’re more comfortable.
When booking your appointment over the phone or through the chat service, you can request a counsellor based on their experience supporting a specific community or equity-seeking group. The provider will do their best to accommodate your request so that you can work with a counsellor with whom you are comfortable.
While the service is meant to be used as a short-term counselling option – meaning that you will not be able to continue seeing the same counsellor on a recurring basis after you have attended the maximum number of follow-up sessions allowed – you are able to contact the EAP for a new referral if you are still in need of counselling or if a new issue arises.
There is no mental health threshold you must cross in order to qualify for EAP counselling. If you are struggling with your mental health or feel that you’re having issues with relationships at work or at home, you should consider calling your EAP provider. The service is 100% confidential; while you will disclose your name and department to the counsellor on the phone to verify your eligibility for the program, no one at your department or on your team will be made aware that you contacted the EAP.
Looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health. In the same way that a healthy diet and exercise are important in the maintenance of physical health, seeking counselling when you aren’t feeling mentally well – even if you don’t think your issues are urgent or serious – is an excellent way to help maintain your mental health and wellness.
If you are having issues at work which are affecting your mental health – such as conflict with coworkers or management, discrimination or harassment – consider also reaching out to the ACFO-ACAF Labour Relations team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team of labour relations advisors will be able to give you advice on a course of action, help with informal conflict resolution or file a grievance if required.
For more information and resources on mental health and mental illness, you can visit the following webpages: